College News

Native teachers encourage STEM programs throughout Milwaukee area

Native community expands efforts to motivate STEM programs for both faculty and students with grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Bureau of Indian Education.

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UW-Milwaukee receives funding to combat a shortage of Native American educators and encourage more inclusive learning within the American Indian community.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Bureau of Indian Education provided $1.1 million in early October to tackle low Native American faculty numbers throughout the state, notably in Milwaukee and in some communities close to reservations.

This is a partnership between the Electa Quinney Institute and School of Education on campus, as well as the Indian Community School in Milwaukee. Most of the funds go to students to alleviate the burden of tuition and textbook costs and are generally need-based in their aid.

“We’ll all work together to see how we can make a difference,” Noodin said.

Most of the funds go to students to alleviate the burden of tuition and textbook costs and are generally need-based in their aid.

This is led by the Electa Quinney Teacher Training and Administrative Leadership Program, which encourages Native teachers in pursuing careers in education, from preschool to the university level.

In the second year of the grant, the university will focus their efforts on those who study math and science programs. This is one of the last areas in which Native populations have significantly low representation.

The previous grant was directed toward education for young students and saw “a little progress,” so they decided to fulfill other areas that have been lacking in recent years, according to Margaret Noodin, director of the Electa Quinney Institute at UW-Milwaukee.

Noodin believed these funds were likely to aid 10 teachers in their journey to earning their certification. The previous grant supported 15 teachers.

Once they finish the program, there are opportunities available in the Milwaukee area with a high population of Native students and there are public schools near tribes. Many nations from the reservations throughout the state will send their children to public schools.

“If you go to school and you see a diverse group of teachers, you see a diverse group of leaders in that school encouraging you to do your best and in that group you can see yourself and you have a better chance for success,” Noodin told WPR.

There is a long history of low faculty members within the Native American community, because of the lack of trust in public and higher education due to the inability to choose preferred schools and speak their language.

Although Wisconsin has generally been accepting of Native populations, there is the presence of the desire to assimilate children and obliterate their culture throughout the nation.

Due to the rising prevalence of STEM programs and careers, Noodin recognized the importance of encouraging students to be more successful and the necessity to create a space for Native community to be a part of that shift.

“It took a while to believe that a career in that field would be good,” Noodin said. “So, we just are behind several decades, really generations, that we need to make up if we want to make sure that students have Native teachers.”

Currently, Noodin teaches Odijbwe at the university to a classroom of 15 students. She noted the general mix of students with Native heritage and students that are interested in learning about the language around them.

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