At May 17 commencement ceremonies, UMD will graduate the largest American Indian teacher education group in the history of Minnesota. It will also be the first class in Minnesota history to be graduating with a teaching minor in an indigenous language (Ojibwe). This distinctive group is known as Gekinoo'imaagejig "The Ones Who Teach".
The unique education cohort group is a collaboration between the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College (FDLTCC) and the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). The program was developed to recruit, to train, and to retain American Indian students interested in becoming teachers. The goal is to provide a culturally responsive curriculum utilizing culturally relevant ways of teaching and learning. Program director is Amy Bergstrom.
The group's sixteen students, ages 22 to 50 years, are graduating with a Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS)degree in elementary education from UMD. They have joint admission at both schools and have taken all of their classes on the FDLTCC campus. In addition to obtaining a minor in the Ojibwe language, the sixteen candidates have been trained with a foundation in the Ojibwe culture using the American Indian Learner Outcomes (AILOs), while also fulfilling all requirements of the Minnesota Board of Teaching (BOT) standards and the National Council of Accrediting Teacher Education (NCATE) standards.
The Minnesota Board of Teaching (BOT) officially approved the Ojibwe Language minor in January 2003, naming it a state certified teaching minor under the BOT's World Cultures and Languages category.
The Gekinoo'imaagejig cohort group began classes together in January 2001. All entered with academic status as juniors. Of the sixteen, fourteen are American Indian. Seven are enrolled Fond du Lac Band members and seven are from other Minnesota and Wisconsin bands. Members of the group are preparing to teach in both public school and tribal school settings.
At May 17 UMD commencement ceremonies, members will wear embroidered sashes over their graduation robes. The sashes are red, yellow, white and black representing the four colors of the Fond du Lac Band and the four directions--North, South, East and West. Many will wear traditional regalia of ribboned shirts and ribboned dresses under their robes.
Funding for the Gekinoo'imaagejig program is provided through a grant from the Office of Indian Education, U.S. Department of Education, and generous contributions from the UMD Ruth A. Meyers Endowed Chair in American Indian Education, and the Grotto Foundation.