CITY There is no doubt about it, earning a doctoral degree
is tough and can take more years than originally planned.
a canvass of those who have put forth the effort indicates it's
well worth the sacrifice, stress and patience to earn the right
to be called "Doctor."
Tanya Gorman Keith is now one of three people at Tuba City Unified
School District #15, who has earned this honor after receiving her
degree this past month from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
if the other two is TCUSD Superintendent Dr. Hector Tahu, who is
full blooded Maori from New Zealand and has lived in Arizona on
the reservation for more than 25 years. Dr. Tahu has an avid interest
in culture and language for all indigenous peoples and advocates
for these programs at the district.
third is Associate Superintendent Dr. Harold G. Begay, who is full-blooded
Navajo, a native of Tuba City who is noted for his work in both
Gifted and Talented Education and the specialized field of neuro-science.
Dr. Tahu and Dr. Begay have been recognized both state and nationally
for their efforts towards betterment of Native American education
Keith, who received her doctorate in education currently serves
as the Foundation Officer for Tuba City District.
offered insight to Native American students who are seeking higher
educational goals and personal advice to help make that path a little
easier. Dr. Keith had several reflective stories laced with quite
a bit of humor.
most important factor in my educational achievement and professional
accomplishment has been my family and relatives, "ke,'" she said.
"My father was my role model. My brothers and sisters were my greatest
supporters. My mother and grandmother provided spiritual support.
My children and husband have been my inspiration. They served as
my source of strength when I faced challenges and difficult times."
discussed her Native American heritage.
is my material clan," Keith said. "My mother and grandmother were
from Canyon De Chelly in Chinle, Arizona.
have six brothers and three sisters; I am the youngest girl. We
were raised in a one-room house with a wood stove, no running water
or electricity. We all helped with farming and shepherding responsibilities."
said her grandmother always reminded her to know herselfthat
she belongs to a tribe who has a distinct culture, language and
will serve as your main source of strength and renewal," she said.
"You will turn to the prayers and the traditional practices when
barriers and obstacles become daunting."
someone tries to tell you that your language and culture is a handicap
or extra baggage, this is not true."
stressed the importance of being able to speak her native tongue.
ability to speak Navajo has allowed me to tell and listen to jokes
in Navajo," she said. "We all know that jokes lose their humor when
is important to relieving stress. I was also able to use my first
language in saying my prayers, a practice that was critical to keeping
my spiritual balance."
moved on to discuss higher education.
"Ultimately, completing your college education will depend on your
individual effort," Keith said. "It may take you four years or 10
years. You may even leave and return to school because you do not
have the money, or you need to help your family or have started
your own family."
took me four years with a one-year break to finish my bachelor degree
but it took another nine years to get my masters degree. My doctoral
program took me five years."
explained that her situation was different each time. "After my
second year of college, I left for a year because I had a baby and
my father passed away," Keith said. "With the help of my family,
I returned to Arizona State University. To get done in two years,
I took 18 credit hours and worked, too, to support myself and my
my last semester, I carried 21 hours, completed my internship and
worked 20 hours a week."
she said she stayed focused on her goal: graduation. "On
my commencement day, my four-year-old and two-year-old sons celebrated
with my entire family the first family member to graduate from college,
Keith said. "My graduate program took longer, because I worked fulltime
and had to attend classes only on weekends. I also didn't take classes
every semester, so it took longer."
said the most intimidating aspect of the graduate program was the
studied hard for the four-hour written exam," Keith said. "My reading,
writing and analytical skills were keys to my research and written
family played a significant role in the data analysis and interpretation.
Like [they were for] my bachelor's degree, my brothers and sisters
continued to be an important facet in completing my doctoral program."
1984 and 2003, Keith worked at Northern Arizona University.
have seen students with outstanding high school academic records
leave," she said. "At the same time, I have seen students with average
grades and test scores, complete their degree program.
speaking and working with Native American students, they had one
thing in common. They stayed focused on the end goal."
stressed their determination.
"If they did poorly in class, they repeated it," Keith said. "If
they lost their eligibility for financial aid, they worked to pay
for school. If they found that their primary major wasn't working
out, they changed their major.
brought their families or left their children with relatives. Nonetheless,
they overcame these challenges because they insisted on remaining
focused and looked to their families and relatives like all Natives
do for support, there is enormous strength in your family."
Keith had advice for native students who receive their degrees that
still focused on Native American values and ethics.
lesson is to give back to your family," Keith said. "A college education
and professional career are not reasons to abandon your family."
does not necessary mean you have to move home. But it does mean
that you must contribute and assist your family."
Keith personally, she said it means helping her nieces and nephews
while they attend college.
must now help the next generation of college students," she said.
"I hope that by sharing a little bit of my own experience, you will
know that with hard work and always, always, that focus and remaining
true to your own tribal heritage and values, you can complete a
bachelor, masters and doctoral program."
I come from a family of sheepherders. I am the little girl with
the simple Navajo outfit who got her pictures taken by tourists
in Canyon De Chelly. I am still that girlone who is grounded
first in traditional values and language."
Tahu, Begay and Keith are full-time employees of Tuba City District,
which is now categorized as the largest Native American School district
in northern Arizona that holds the record for the most natives in
their employ with master's degrees.
more information about Tuba City District and its opportunities
for both student and staff, contact Rosanda Suetopka Thayer, Public
Relations, phone 928-283-1072.
Suetopka Thayer is Public Relations Director for Tuba City Unified