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  • Major BA, Political Science
  • Work history Teach for America at Little Wound BIA School

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

Being a 3rd grade teacher your day-to-day routine is always in flux. Every morning I wake up at about 6 am, crank up the pot of coffee, listen to a podcast and get ready for school. I live about a five minute walk from my school.

When my students come into the classroom, the first thing they sit down to is a “morning journal” prompt. This was actually an assignment given to me as a student in Dr. Miller’s Philosophy class The Examined Life. While it was intended to promote mindfulness, I find that it really helps kids get into the school mode and reset from whatever is happening at home.

Besides the daily curriculum of reading, writing, math and science I try to promote our three class values: advocacy, empowerment and inquiry. My students are only about eight- or nine-years-old but all of them know what it looks like to be an advocate, to empower one another and to inquire - and they do it every day. While delivering the content and trying to meet common core standards I am also charged with incorporating Lakota values, language and culture into their content. One way I do this is by burning sage every morning, to cleanse the room. We also discuss what it looks like to be a Lakota leader everyday and why that is important to their community.

After school I usually stay and prep for the following day for another hour or so. If there is a football game, basketball game or volleyball game I usually stay to watch. If not I finish up work and head home

Attending a small college like CMU gave me the ability and access to build relationships with faculty, staff and advisors. These relationships allowed me to have access to an opportunity like Teach for America and be able to thrive in the education world. I didn’t study education in school, I actually got a political science degree, but it was my interest in tribal politics, educational equity and sociology that got me involved in the opportunity to move to Pine Ridge.

How did your experience at CMU prepare you for your career?

CMU’s professors gave me the one-on-one time to develop my social skills, fine tune my academic viewpoint and expand my understanding of social issues. This connection to my professors and the ability to witness first-hand, their love and passion for the work really ignited the fire in me to fight for educational equity. Being molded by my professor’s ability to teach and do so in an entertaining and effective way inspires me to inspire my kids everyday.

The atmosphere at CMU also gave way for my success in this unique situation. It was my time out of the classroom, just as much as my time in the classroom that prepared me. I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to the Colorado Capital Conference where I heard Senator Cory Booker talk about the importance of education in low-income and disadvantaged communities like the one he lived in during his first campaign. It was these snippets that encouraged me and guided me into the position that I am in today and CMU opened up nearly all of those doors for me.

What was your transition like from being a student to your current career position?

Transitioning from student life to being in the professional world can be a bit chaotic. The common myth that working is easier because the work ends when you go home is completely false. I am working 24/7 trying my best to do home-visits, student and family outreach, and be as prepared as possible.

What do you think set you apart from the other applicants for your current position?

My experience 100% set me apart from other applicants. I am in a very competitive program that only accepts about 14% of its applicants. My experience was a result of the care of my professors to write amazing references, my boss JoAnna Gillespie who cared so much and advocated for me to be hired at such an amazing program in the Office of Student Success and the leadership of my peers who elected me to the position of student Trustee, at-large senator and treasurer.

What advice would you give to incoming college students?

My advice to incoming college students is to be whoever you want to be. College success is absolutely possible no matter what. I graduated high school with a 2.7 GPA and a 21 on my ACT. I had also failed two or three classes. I chose to be successful in college and Mesa was the perfect place to do that. Their resources and professors will make sure you are successful if you reach out and ask.

Also, seize every single opportunity. Be a leader; take a class that you are scared of; study abroad (which I wish I did); reach out to professors; start a club, interest group or organization; explore the wonders of the western slope and Utah - do EVERYTHING!

Published 4/4/2018

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