The grant is based on the collaboration of Professor of Special Education at the University of Montana Western, Vikki Howard, PhD, with Dee Hoyt, Education Division Chair at Blackfeet Community College and Cheryl Madman, Tribal Community Teacher Capacity Project Developer at Blackfeet Community College.
The five-year project, entitled Indigenous Centered Education Project (ICEP), was ranked by reviewers among the highest for quality of design and potential for success, due in part to the success of Howard and her collaborators’ previous $1 million-dollar grant from the Office of Indian Education that initiated a partnership between Blackfeet Community College (BCC), the Browning Public Schools and the University of Montana Western to increase the number of Indigenous educators on the Blackfeet Reservation.
“We are so honored to be partners with Blackfeet Community College and Browning Public Schools,” said Montana Western Chancellor Beth Weatherby. “This new grant will allow us to be able to offer bachelor’s degrees and certifications to even more Indigenous educators who won’t have to leave their communities in order to complete their degrees.”
Over the duration of the new grant, 35 Indigenous teacher candidates will be recruited to address the Indigenous teacher shortage on the Blackfeet Reservation, a rural area in Montana that spans over 2,000 square miles. Because both BCC’s associate degree courses and Montana Western’s bachelor’s degree courses will be delivered at BCC, the candidates don’t have to leave their homes and families to complete their degrees.
The grant will provide support to teacher candidates in the key areas of elementary education, secondary education, and special education. Grant funds cover the cost of course delivery, tuition, books and child care, allowing teacher candidates to focus on their education and goals.
These three key areas expand on the previous grant’s impact, which provided associates and bachelor’s degrees for Pre-Kindergarten through third grade and Kindergarten through eighth grade certifications.
By expanding into special and secondary education, this new grant will address previously unserved needs in preparation of Indigenous educators to teach and support Indigenous children.
According to Laura No Runner, a mother of three who lives in Starr School, Mont., the first grant program has helped her reach her future goals as a teacher candidate.
“The program has helped me move forward in my education without leaving home. I am very happy with all that was offered to me! I am so grateful for all the advisors and teachers that have helped me so far. I hope there are more programs that can help students in this way, to help them achieve their dreams of becoming educated and to pursue life’s challenges right here at home,” No Runner said.
Patrick and Anna Armstrong visited Montana Western last year and shared their classroom experiences with the campus community. They live in Heart Butte, Mont., and have three children.
“I am proud to say I will be graduating in the spring of 2019 from the University of Montana Western,” Armstrong said. “What makes this even more of a successful journey for me is my wife Anna will be graduating at the same time as me. To be able to be successful together, only makes us that much stronger as a couple. Our kids will be able to watch us graduate from college together. It is with a humble heart that I must thank those that have had a hand in the success of the program being offered through the Blackfeet Community College and the University of Montana Western.”