Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Just Cause: Department Education's Joyce Silverthorne Working to Ensure That No American Indian Child Is Left Behind

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Just Cause: Department Education's Joyce Silverthorne Working to Ensure That No American Indian Child Is Left Behind

Article excerpt

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The Office of Indian Education, though largely a K-12 office nestled within the Department of Education, is dipping its toes in the higher education pool with a recent professional development grants program targeting American Indian teachers and administrators. Under the new initiative, the office provides funding to institutions to train future teachers and administrators who will then go on to serve in American Indian communities.

Joyce Silverthorne, director of the Office of Indian Education, says that schools in American Indian communities often see high staff turnover rates. The problem, she says, is that Indian schools "may attract a new teacher or administrator because jobs may come open often, but [the areas] may not be some place they are prepared to serve."

Silverthorne recounts that the community in which she grew up had a population of around 400--some of which, she quips, may have been cats and dogs. There were no grocery stores or gas stations. And TV and cell phone coverage was spotty.

"This is not the norm for many recent graduates" she says. It is the task of her office to "provide opportunities for experience ... and help them understand what they may be getting into when they get there" to teach in tribal schools.

In this capacity, the Office of Indian Education is there primarily to "provide support for students [and] target students who may be interested in becoming teachers and administrators," Silverthorne says.

The program, which is typically a four-year program, though it is not atypical for a student to enter in his or her sophomore year of college, requires a service payback that sends students to serve in a tribal school one month for every month he or she received grant assistance in the professional development program. …

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