In a partnership with the Red Lake, Minn., School District, Bemidji State University will administer $92,000 in Minnesota Indian Teaching Training Program grants to American Indian students entering the education field.
A Minnesota Department of Education initiative, MITTP grants are available to post-secondary institutions and school districts in Minnesota that support American Indian educators or professionals working in a pre-K-12 environment. In addition to teaching degrees, other eligible academic programs include those related to American Indian language and culture, counseling or mental health services, paraprofessional services, administration, school healthcare and social work.
At a Sept. 2 campus forum Chrissy Koch, executive director of the American Indian Resource Center, revealed the 2020-2021 program slogan, “Decolonizing Educators.” She went on to explain the historical impact colonization and education had on American Indian peoples, emphasizing the trauma it caused indigenous nations and the effects that can still be felt today.
“When we talk about decolonizing educators we are trying to express that we want to bring indigenous prospectives and traditions into the education realm because they were taken from us in that setting historically,” she said.
Scholarships are available to students enrolled in a federally recognized tribal nation, or a first- or second-degree descendant of an enrolled member. Offered at six universities and colleges in Minnesota, each scholarship will include $1500 in tuition dollars, a $400 book stipend and a $3000 living stipend per semester. This year the program will fund eight students – five of which are new to the program and on track to join Bemidji State’s Department of Professional Education.
“We are focusing our sights on upperclassmen in the areas of Ojibwe language and Indigenous studies as requested by the Minnesota Department of Education to encourage teachers to teach Ojibwe and culture in classes,” Koch said. “We will revisit the budget proposal next spring to determine how we can create additional scholarships for our students moving forward.”
Shepherded in part by Bemidji State’s American Indian Resource Center, MITTP participants will also receive on-campus mentoring, training and professional development opportunities.
“The mentorship component of the program is small but mighty. It is an important element for American Indian students navigating higher education,” Ann Humphrey, assistant director of the AIRC, said. “I will be helping all MITTP students navigate the higher education space, specifically the professional education application process.”
Each student will meet with Humphrey once per month throughout their academic experience to ensure program requirements are met and students have the support they need on their path toward licensure. Students will also connect with American Indian teachers throughout the region.
“We will bring American Indian educators from other districts and states to campus to share with our students what’s working and where progress could be made in regard to cultural practices in the regular curriculum and how to advocate for that change with distinct entities,” Humphrey said. “We also want our students to go and teach in districts with high populations of American Indian students.”
- Chrissy Koch, AIRC executive director; firstname.lastname@example.org