From curricular revisions to standardized testing, it’s no secret that education in New Mexico has been under the microscope. With a diverse population including many people with special needs, education in New Mexico is being re-imagined across many sectors.

In an effort to address those special needs, administrators at the University of New Mexico in the College of Education hosts the first Assembly of New Mexico Native American Educational Leadership to focus on educational issues of Native American students on Wednesday, Oct. 28 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Rotunda at the Science and Technology Park, located at 801 University Blvd, SE.

The idea for the workshop came about after a two-day retreat involving Native faculty in the COE. Several questions rose to the top during the two-day curricular revision meeting. A major focus of the two-day retreat was to address the following following questions:

  1. What is the Native American knowledge base that all teacher candidates need to know if they do not pursue the Native American strand/concentration?
  2. What should be the course sequence if someone is pursuing a Native American strand/concentration in teacher certification at the undergraduate level (elementary, secondary, early childhood)?
  3. What bilingual Native American courses need to be developed if someone is pursuing the bilingual specialization in Navajo or the Pueblo languages?

Native faculty are faced with many questions including one that interrogates the effectiveness in providing school districts with effective and culturally aware administrators, educators, professional support and school leaders.  

The workshop will feature both small and large group discussions asking what UNM can do to better serve Indigenous populations. The goal of the workshop is to collect data from the stakeholders and use the data to create a work plan to operationalize what their needs are.

 “What I wanted to know was how the COE could be more responsive to the educational needs of Indigenous People in the state of New Mexico,” said Glenabah Martinez, associate dean, Language, Literacy and Sociocultural Studies, UNM College of Education. “The question is ‘are we effective in providing teachers at To’Hajiilee, Taos Day School and Ft. Wingate High School for example – are they prepared to do that?’ That’s where this started.

 “I come to this as a teacher, a high school teacher, and as a parent. I’m really concerned about Native faculty and how we can help our teacher candidates become better teachers. When I’m preparing secondary education social studies teachers, I always try to do my best to provide as much content along with pedagogical strategies to be effective teachers with all kids, but also Native American youth because it’s a mystery to people if they haven’t had a lot of contact with Native American people.” 

The initiative is heavily supported by the PED and President Robert Frank’s Special Assistant Pam Agoyo, Office of American Indian Student Services (AISS). More than 75 people invited to the workshop including the New Mexico Public Education Department Indian Education Division and Assistant Secretary Latifah Phillips, superintendents from New Mexico’s 23 school districts with the largest Native American students a few of which include the Albuquerque Public Schools, Bernalillo Public Schools, Bloomfield Public Schools and Espanola Public Schools.

Others invited include Indian education directors, members of New Mexico Indian Education Advisory Council, state legislators including Native American senators and representatives.

“We want to be able to address their particular concerns about teachers,” said Martinez. “If you graduated and got a degree in secondary education in history, we want to make sure UNM provides you with all that you need right now as an undergraduate to go teach at To’Hajiilee Community Schools or Coyote (N.M.) or Taos Day School. We want to be able to ensure teachers have the tools that they need to be successful.”