Teach For America aims to recruit American Indians

Sioux Falls, South Dakota (AP) June 2010

An organization that recruits high-achieving college graduates from fields outside of education to teach in high-needs areas for at least two years is recruiting American Indian students.

The new Teach For America initiative hopes to serve more Native American students and recruit more of them to teach.

“When a student is able to see a bit of themselves in the teacher ... it’s just a different level of connection,” senior recruitment director Patrick Herrel said.

The upcoming school year will mark the beginning of the organization’s Native American Initiative. By 2015, it aims to increase the number of Indian students served each year from 11,000 to 56,000.

Nationwide, Teach For America will place 24 Native American teachers next year, nearly double last year’s number. But only three of those 24 decided to teach at a reservation school – two in New Mexico and one in South Dakota. Herrel said Teach For American would like to see more Indian teachers choosing reservation schools.

Recruiters will be building relationships with tribal officials, college faculty and professional organizations in hopes of drawing more Native American graduates into the effort.

“Teachers who share an identity with their students can be very positive role models for what’s possible for them,” said Catherine Pozniak, the group’s director in South Dakota.