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August 2022 Newsletter: Celebrating Native Students’ Talents


August 24th, 2022

Director's Note

I don’t know about you, but I’m in a bit of denial that my son will be returning to school in a few short weeks. Is it really that time of year already? To help get us into back-to-school mode, Bill Gates has begun a fun tradition of interviewing the Washington State Teacher of the Year. Each teacher brings their own unique view on teaching and learning, and this year was no exception.

One of the things I appreciated most about Bill’s conversation with Jerad Koepp (Wukchumni), who runs the Native Student Program for North Thurston Public Schools, was the focus on preserving and celebrating Native culture – not just through a history lens, but in recognition of the contributions Native youth and communities are making today.

If you’ve met or worked with me before, you’ve probably heard me talk about my desire to be a great ancestor. I am who I am because of my parents and the parents who shaped them, and I believe I can be a great ancestor by keeping my family traditions alive. Koepp brings this same concept into the classroom, while recognizing how powerful it can be for students to experience their culture at school.

“I think it’s really important that when we talk about history, we always need to remind ourselves that we’re always talking about people. And if we remind ourselves of each other’s humanity, then I think we’re naturally inclined to challenge ourselves to do better.”

Jerad Koepp (Wukchumni)

2022 Washington State Teacher of the Year

“Over 80 percent of school textbooks don’t mention us after 1900,” Jerad told Bill. “If you see yourself being made invisible or misrepresented to other students, that wears you down.”

I hope you’ll take the time to read the full interview, as Jerad’s note about seeing our Native children as phenomenally asset-based really stuck with me. As teachers across our state head into another school year, may we all take a moment to recognize them for everything they do to help students make the most of their talents.

In Partnership,

Angela Jones

Director, Washington State Initiative

Celebrating Native Culture and Talents

In this video, Washington’s 2022 Teacher of the Year Jerad Koepp (Wukchumni) explains what it means to be the first Native American teacher to receive this award and highlights how a drum-tying class builds cultural learning and connection.

Watch the video from Gates Notes

Partners Spotlight

Washington Teacher Advisory Council

Education works best when we allow those working on the ground to inform policies and practices. That’s why we provide funding to support the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction’s Teacher Advisory Council – a network of over 250 award-winning educators, like Jerad, from across the state who help elevate educator voice on social media and other public forums.

Learn more about the WATAC

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