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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


May 1, 2004 - Issue 112


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"Business as usual" for Haskell award winner

by Mary Pierpoint / Correspondent / Indian Country Today
credits: photo: Val Howland and Lydia Roach share a light moment. (Photo by Mary Pierpoint)}

Val Howland and Lydia Roach share a light moment. (Photo by Mary Pierpoint)LAWRENCE, Kan. - Although Haskell teacher education senior, Lydia Roach had written the essay for the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) student of the year competition, the call she got on her birthday was completely unexpected. She had been named AIHEC's student of the year from Haskell. Roach, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, had never really thought about her accomplishments. The job she was doing at school and as a student teacher were just business as usual. But to the committee at Haskell that nominated her and to the officials at AIHEC, Roach's dedication and outlook on education were much more than "business as usual."

Roach's parents were teachers and she grew up around education, but it was when she took time off to raise her niece that she realized she wanted to work with young children in the classroom. Once that decision was made, Roach headed for Haskell Indian Nations University's Teacher Education Program and threw herself into preparing to educate young children.

Roach had received her associate's degree in Liberal Arts from the college in 1997 and her previous positive experience with the school is what brought her back.

"I knew what I wanted to do and that was to work with young children," Roach remembered. "I knew that the program at Haskell was unique in its methods and I liked the fact that I was being taught by Native teachers."

As she completes her last semester in the program, Roach is full of confidence and anxious to have her own classroom, but admits she will miss working with the woman she has been a student teacher for this past year, Val Howland.

Howland, a teacher at the Broken Arrow Elementary School will miss her too. "I've been very, very proud of her," Howland said. "It has been a wonderful experience for me to watch her grow in confidence in the classroom."

With over 20 years in the classroom, Howland is pleased to see women of color teaching children. "When I was growing up and in school, we saw women of color in positions as laborers," Howland said. "I always remember that the first time I saw a woman of color in a leadership position it made me realize that I could be more than I had expected of myself. One of the things I see from the Haskell students is the broad spectrum of knowledge they have before they get into the classroom. Lydia had so much more time in the classroom before she started teaching that it really makes a difference. She spent her observation time with me last year and so when she started this year it was an added bonus. We already had relationship established and a rapport. I really feel the extra hours and interaction they have with the children really gives them an edge."

Although Howland and Roach are teaching Kindergarteners, they have explained to the children that man years ago they couldn't have taught children of one race or another because of segregation. After explaining Brown v. Board of Education, the young students were aghast at the "old" way of doing things.

What has tickled both Howland and Roach has been that after teaching students about Native American history, they asked the students how many of them were Indians. "The whole class stood up and raised their hands," Howland laughed. "All of them said they knew they had to be."

While Roach completes the last few weeks of her student teaching stint she looks back on the past year fondly. "I was looking back and thought I'm not going to be in the classroom here anymore or at Haskell and I thought, how sad," Roach said. "But so many other things are going on that are good, some things are ending, but other things are just beginning. I can't wait to have my own classroom."

The award from AIHEC was just icing on the cake for Roach, but the fact her mother was able to be there to see her presented with the award is something she will never forget. "I couldn't believe she was able to get off during the school year and fly to see me get the award," she said smiling. "That and seeing other relatives there made it even more special."

Now that the initial surprise of winning the award has worn off, Roach said she began looking at the work she has done and although she is amazed at what she has done, really doesn't think it was out of the ordinary for her.

"I had wonderful teachers and they have given me so much," Roach concluded. "With us getting all this knowledge at Haskell, we go back home and now everyone is asking questions and wanting to learn more. I am doing what I love so I guess I don't realize how well I am doing … it is in my nature to do the best in everything that I do and exceed. I think that is just something from my parents and something within my personality. If I can't do my best why do it?"

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