The Indigenous Roots Teacher Education Program (ROOTS) will improve the teaching and learning of American Indian students in Nebraska through a strong partnership between the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), Little Priest Tribal College (LPTC), and the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE), working in collaboration with K-12 school districts in Northeast Nebraska. The program’s primary purpose is to certify American Indian students as elementary, English Language Learning (ELL), and special education teachers to ensure their employment in school districts that serve American Indian students. The Indigenous Roots Teacher Education Program (ROOTS) responds to Absolute Priority One: Pre-service Training for Teachers and qualifies under Competitive Preference Priority One and Competitive Preference Priority Three defined by the U.S. Department of Education. This is the fourth federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education to be awarded to the successful ROOTS program and will allow the program to celebrate it’s 20th year in 2018/2019.
School districts participating include the Umonhon Nation School, Macy, NE; Santee Community School, Santee, NE; Walthill Public School, Walthill, NE; and Winnebago Public School, Winnebago, NE. Besides these four target school districts, participants will also be recruited from and placed in other districts including those in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska.
Since 1999, the ROOTS program has supported 42 students in earning teacher certification, B.A. and M.A. degrees, and assisted with placements for all to work in education-related and leadership positions throughout Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. Twenty-two (22) participants will be recruited to participate in ROOTS’ YR 1. One of the ROOTS program’s strengths is the flexibility of the program in supporting each student’s individual needs and finding placement for graduates. In addition, the program meets the state demands for teacher shortages, especially in the area(s) of Special Education and ELL, K-12.
The ROOTS program is unique because it addresses barriers currently limiting the number of American Indian students pursuing degrees in higher education by bringing the program to the students who live and work in the target communities. ROOTS is re-energizing Nebraska’s reservation schools by helping to renew native language, placing American Indian role models in K-12 classrooms, and integrating local culture and history into school curriculum. It is crucial to the state and nation that the opportunities offered through the ROOTS program continue to be made available to talented students who might otherwise not attend college.