Teacher, Class Connect across 750 Miles

By McElwee, Joshua J. | National Catholic Reporter, March 30, 2012 | Go to article overview

Teacher, Class Connect across 750 Miles


McElwee, Joshua J., National Catholic Reporter


Sometimes, as the saying goes, the medium is the message. But, for Sr. Regina Ann Brummel, the message goes far beyond the medium.

For the past year, Brummel, a member of the St. Joseph Sisters of Concordia, Kan., has been teaching French to high school students at Turtle Mountain Community High School in Bel-court, N.D.

Brummel teaches by sitting in front of her laptop, transmitting her lesson through the Internet communication service Skype to the open spaces of North Dakota some 750 miles away from her office in the plains of Kansas.

But don't let the "here comes the future" aspect of Brummel's story fool you.

With master's degrees in French and international politics and a doctorate in multicultural education, Brummel is certainly academically qualified. But she's also a teacher with deep ties to her students' community, the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians.

The French class is just the latest in Brummel's long association with tribal peoples.

Brummel told NCR her connection with the Turtle Mountain Band goes back to 1975, when she met Betty Laver-dure, a member of the tribe, during the West Africa Ethnic Heritage Seminar that year.

Brummel has since served in positions with several tribal peoples, including the Sisseton-Wahpeton Tribe in South Dakota, Anishinaabe people in Minnesota, and then the Turtle Mountain Band, with whom she worked from 2003 until she joined her order's leadership council in 2008.

It was the connection with Laverdure that brought Brummel back into the orbit of the Turtle Mountain Band last year. When a new North Dakota state law mandating foreign language study went into effect, Laverdure's daughter Andrea, a guidance counselor at the tribe's community high school, reached out to Brummel, asking if she'd be interested in working out a way to teach from afar.

That's when Skype came in. Five mornings a week, Brummel uses the service, in coordination with Betty Lou Laducer, a teacher aide in North Dakota, to lead 17 students in learning the basics of French. …

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