High School auto mechanics teacher Richard Sneed has been selected
by the National Indian Education Association as the Classroom Teacher
of the Year. Sneed was selected from a national pool of thousands
of Native educators across the country teaching at all levels from
elementary through college.
The award is given to a teacher who "shows exceptional achievement
in providing quality instruction to Native students". NIEA chose
him based on his impact as a teacher and his innovative use of entrepreneurship
curriculum in the classroom. When informed of his award, Sneed simply
said he was humbled.
NIEA President Dr. Heather Shotton explained the selection.
"Richard's focus on helping Cherokee High School's students develop
their entrepreneurism and financial literacy stood out. Our students
need to not only receive high-quality academic and cultural education,
they also need to learn about how they can take control of their
own futures and that of their communities."
Sneed's class features regular hands-on activities that engage
students and help them to think creatively about business and financial
management. In addition to changing oil and timing belts, students
learn about cash flow management for businesses, break-even point
analysis, and customer service. He delivers practical mechanical
lessons and equally practical life lessons. Sneed regularly uses
curriculum created by Rural Entrepreneurship through Action Learning
(REAL) designed to offer hands-on activities that teach experiential
knowledge of the process of starting and managing a business.
For Sneed's former students this award will come as no surprise.
His contagious positive energy and down-to-earth wisdom have inspired
many who have gone through his class. He also brings his wealth
of former work experience. He teaches auto repair with the passion
of a lifelong mechanic, the discipline and tough love of a marine,
and the creativity and problem solving skills of an entrepreneur.
Sneed described his hopes for his students in terms of practical
skills and broader perspectives. "What I want is for young people
to take something of value when they leave here and find direction.
What's really cool is to see a kid hang in there and solve a tough
problem. I know that they won't all become mechanics, and that's
ok. I take pride in watching them challenge themselves and seeing
how they respond, to discover their purpose. I want them to learn
what it takes to be a man or a woman, to honor yourself, your family,
and your community."
Shotton explained how Sneed's method lines up with NIEA's vision
for Native students. "Economic and educational self-determination
goes hand in hand. Without education, our students, their families,
and their communities cannot build strong economies that will allow
them to take control of their futures. Richard's work in teaching
our students about entrepreneurship helps our students take control
of their lives as leaders in an increasingly global economy."
Sneed will receive his award at the NIEA 44th Annual Convention
and Trade Show held Oct. 30 Nov. 2 in Rapid City, SD.
Cherokee High School principal Woodreen Caldwell and Principal
Chief Michell Hicks wrote letters of recommendation for Sneed, the
Cherokee School Board supported the nomination, and Shawn Spruce
at Sequoyah Fund coordinated and submitted the application.