Editor's note: This article was submitted by Steve Des Georges, director of public relations and marketing, ASU West. Send your education news to email@example.com.
Seventeen members of the Navajo Nation have received degrees from
Arizona State University's College of Teacher Education and Leadership and
are returning to their communities in the Four Corners region of Arizona to
teach in schools on the reservation.
The grads are products of the college's Professional Development School (PDS)
program, directed by Scott Ridley.
Designed to increase teacher-retention rates and student-achievement scores,
the PDS program boasts partnerships with seven underserved school districts
in Arizona, including the Chinle Unified School District on the Navajo
The Arizona Teacher's Excellence Plan (AzTEP), funded through the office of
Gov. Janet Napolitano and the Arizona K-12 Center, share in supporting
teacher-recruitment and -retention efforts through ASU's PDS program.
"We take great pride in being embedded in the Navajo community where these
students took their classes and worked in schools," said Mari Koerner, dean
of the ASU West campus college. "Their graduation means there are 17
teachers, fully certified, who will be teachers in the schools in and around
Ridley, assistant dean and an associate professor in elementary education,
says the program embraces the diversity of the districts it serves, pointing
to PDS student demographics that include 34 percent Hispanic students, 33
percent Native American, 32 percent White and 1 percent "other."
Seventy percent of PDS students are first-generation students.
"The strength of our program, and the benefit to our students, is what we
learn from the teachers and what we provide back, based on their input, to
address their in-class challenges. We are taking the time and putting a
priority on learning more about the social and cultural elements that make
up this community," he says.
Delia Saenz, ASU's vice provost for undergraduate education, says the
enthusiasm and success of the Native American graduates can be directly
attributed to the college effort.
"I am taken aback by the success of the programming in the college," Saenz
said. "The size of this cohort reflects the potential that ASU has for
producing graduates who will have a significant impact on society."
The 17 Native American teacher-ed graduates are among 30 who received
diplomas from the four ASU colleges at ASU West.
Koerner says the number will grow in the education college as the PDS
program continues its outreach and the extra steps necessary for such
She has been working in four rural sites, referring to school districts in
Chinle, Indian Oasis-Baboquivari (Tohono O'odham Nation), Gadsden and
"We work with community colleges and schools to recruit, admit and provide
classes for these students. We have hired a full-time coordinator from the
community to work with our students in these districts," she said.
"We send an adviser to help them enroll for classes. A university supervisor
works with the students during student teaching and lives on the reservation
one week each month for the past semester."
Koerner also points with pride to the access her college provides students
to teaching opportunities and the faculty commitment to take responsibility
for the individual to be successful by offering support all the way through
"These graduates are role models for their colleagues," Koerner said.
"They will continue to work in community schools where they will serve a
typically underserved population."