The W.K. Kellogg Foundation recently awarded the University of New Mexico a $596,000 grant to work with the Zuni (N.M.) Public School District (ZPSD) to support teacher preparation and professional development. The project, titled, “Zuni: Engaging Teachers and Community (ZETAC)” is designed to enhance the educational attainment of children in the ZPSD by focusing on the continuing education, professional development and recruitment of teachers in Zuni to empower a community of learners in the northwestern New Mexico pueblo.

“We greatly value the collaboration with the University of New Mexico and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation,” said Hayes Lewis, superintendent, Zuni Public School District. “This partnership will lead to the training of many new Zuni teachers. We anticipate that the opportunity will assist to improve the quality of education and strengthen community engagement systemically to create an academically enriched and culturally responsive education for all children.”

“The aim is to support education in Zuni from early childhood through high school,” College of Education Associate Professor Marjori Krebs, director of the grant said. “One of the challenges faced by many teachers in Zuni is the integration of Zuni culture and history with state mandates.  An advisory council, consisting of representatives from the Zuni Pueblo, the Zuni Public School District, and Native and non-native American faculty from UNM guide the project, sharing their knowledge of best practices.”

<strong>Goals include:</strong>
• Provide a social and cultural orientation for current and future teachers in Zuni;  
• reestablish a sense of empowerment among principals and teachers;
• facilitate collegial and collaborative work across the district;
• recruit current Zuni students to become teachers and;
• provide educational opportunities for teachers and future teachers to obtain graduate and undergraduate degrees.

The key ZETAC themes, which are co-taught by Zuni community members and UNM faculty include Zuni history, language, and culture, in combination with research-based teaching strategies such as Project-Based Learning.

“Many of the participants are experienced educators and currently serve as Educational Assistants (EA’s) or already have degrees in other fields, but now desire to become licensed teachers,” said Lewis. “This program will keep these individuals within the community and allow them to develop or strengthen their capacity to be of continued service to our children and community.”
Program coordinators are working with four groups for  key participants including current ZPSD teachers and administrators, current educational assistants, community members with a bachelor’s or master’s degree seeking licensure, and middle and high school students interested in becoming teachers.

“Community buy-in and support is an essential aspect of any community based plan to improve the educational services for the community,” Lewis said. “Zuni, like many American Indian tribes continues to struggle with conditions, policies and limitations imposed from the ‘outside’ which have served to re-colonize aspects of public education and the community. Our challenge has been to move beyond involvement to meaningful engagement and empowerment. The empowerment of children begins with the empowerment of adults who are ready to move beyond self-imposed boundaries of self-determination.”

“This is truly a joint and unique collaboration between UNM and the Zuni Public School District,” said Krebs. “The issue in Zuni is a lack of Zuni teachers teaching Zuni children.  What makes the need even greater for Zuni Public Schools is that 40-50 educational assistants and teachers will retire within the next five years. This is a powerful collaboration involving teacher recruitment, retention, and a continuing education program focused on the Zuni community and culture.”

Also included within the collaboration are two-week intensive summer workshops, the first of which was held in June of this year. The first week focused on Zuni culture, history and the importance of ancestral knowledge, while the second week focused on problem-based learning, and strategies and planning around content standards.

UNM Associate Professor Cheryl Torrez, who is assisting Krebs with the project, said “Fundamental to this project is increased Zuni knowledge, culture and history.  Working collaboratively with Mr. Lewis has been inspiring and has helped me grow as a teacher educator.”  

The UNM-Zuni administration and staff have been extremely helpful and instrumental with the project “including Bruce Klewer, the director of the UNM-Zuni Campus, by allowing us to use their classrooms, computer labs, and technology,” Krebs added.

About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, established in 1930, supports children, families and communities as they strengthen and create conditions that propel vulnerable children to achieve success as individuals and as contributors to the larger community and society. Grants are concentrated in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, and southern Africa.