Bilingual education efforts in San Juan

by JoAnna Bethea, San Juan School District
During the 2017-2018 school year, the San Juan School District Bilingual Education Department followed the theme “It’s Up to You” in most of the K-12 school district Native American events and heritage languge classrooms.
This theme is appropriate to help our Native American students utilize the saying as their ancestors did.
“It’s Up to You” in the Navajo Language is “T’áá Hó Ájít’éego T’éiyá.”
This theme was introduced to all K-12 heritage language classrooms at the beginning of the school year. It is an important concept to teach students to instill in them the positive thinking that will help them in their daily activities, in the classroom, in extracurricular activities, and in their home life.
Kim Schaefer, Whitehorse High School Principal, after allowing parents to visit classrooms, identified Ina Miles, Heritage Language Teacher, as the Best Teacher of the Day. Miles taught with the theme in mind along with the Navajo process of learning (Ntsáhákees, Nahat’á, Iiná and Sih Hasin).
All of our Heritage Language teachers use the same theme and concepts to teach students, and we can confidently say that all of our Heritage Language teachers are the best teachers!
“It’s Up to You” was the theme at the 2017 High School Knowledge Bowl held on Thursday, December 14, 2017 at San Juan High School. San Juan High School took first place competing in events such as Reading, Singing, Dancing, and general knowledge of Navajo history.
Not only was the theme used in the classrooms and for Native events, but when the San Juan School District JOM Indian Education Committee hosted the Navajo Nation Regional JOM Workshop on February 8-9, 2018, they used the theme to bring the positive thinking to other JOM-funded reservation schools.
On February 27, the prestigious Navajo Nation Seal of the Bilingual Proficency assessed five SJSD Navajo seniors. Maurice Begay of San Juan High School was recognized as a superior fluent Navajo language speaker. He is a wonderful example of how a student can achieve success by following the theme.
San Juan School District K-12 students participated in the 45th Annual Tsé Nitsaa Deez’áhí Song and Dance Festival held on January 31 and February 1.
Bluff Elementary, Whitehorse High, San Juan High schools took first, second, and third honors in Solo, Duet, Group, Shoe Game, and Yé’iibicheii singing and dancing. Our students are encouraged to participate in the various events throughout the school year that give them the opportunity to perform Native songs, dances, and presentations.
On Thursday, March 8, K-6 students competed in the twelfth annual Diné Language Fair held at San Juan High using, again, the theme “It’s Up to You.”
Bluff Elementary school took first place in the Primary division, and Blanding Elementary school took first place in the Intermediate division by showcasing their talents in Navajo singing, dancing, reading, and corn grinding presentations. Parents, grandparents, and relatives truly loved the rarity of the new songs that were sung.
Another wonderful event, the Fifth Grade Long Walk Experience, was held on Thursday, March 22 in Blanding along the Westwater Canyon Trail.
Students from Montezuma Creek, Bluff, Tsébii’nidzisgai and Blanding Elementary Schools participated and enjoyed remembering the Navajo Long Walk that occurred from 1864 to 1868.
At the USU Blanding Arts and Events Center, students participated in five sessions: the 1868 treaty sign, headed by Bob McPherson and USU students; sharing of herbs of the Four Corners, presented by Rebecca Stoneman from the SJSD Heritage Language Resource Center; and songs, clothes and food of the Navajo, presented by Shirley Clarke and USU students.
Chief Manuelito, played by Clayton Long, encouraged the students to go home with pride, knowing they are going back to their original land. The Westwater Diné were a great support, as they welcomed the students back to the land and fed them a snack of frybread and honey.
Two great events will continued to honor the theme “Táá Hó Ájít’éego T’éiyá”. First, the 24th Annual Heritage Language Conference was held Friday, April 6 at Whitehorse High School.
Jana Mashonee was the keynote speaker. Jana is a Native American Indian and comes with a wealth of talent as a motivational speaker, actress, and a philanthropist.
Other excellent presenters included Dr. Bob McPherson, San Juan Heritage Language Teachers, Judge Lyle Anderson, San Juan High School students, and musician Pete Sands.
All presenters have a wealth of knowledge in the areas of social studies, teaching heritage language, language arts and music.
Educators and community members of the Four Corners area were welcomed to attend. Local students, under the direction of Native American flute teacher, Vince Redhouse, performed the national anthem and other flute pieces.
The JOM Indian Education Committee will host the annual Jim Dandy, Sr. Standing Tall Awards on May 3 at Bluff Elementary School.
Native American students from grades 6 to 12 will be honored in the areas of academics, behavior, and leadership for their outstanding accomplishments throughout the 2017-2018 school year.
Through the generous contributions of the Title VI Native American grant, Navajo Nation JOM funds, and the SJSD Bilingual and State Education funds are all these Native events and activities achieved.
In addition, the support received from the Heritage Language Teachers, the SJSD Heritage Language Resource Center, and District office staff has been tremendous.
The future looks bright for our SJSD Native American students. All activities this year have provided support and identity to more than 1,500 students in the county.
To learn more about our Bilingual Education programs and events, please contact Clayton Long at 435-678-1251 or JoAnna Bethea at 435-678-1316.

San Juan Record

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