School board further explores language revitalization
The Nome Board of Education continued discussion on what is being called “The Introductions Project” or “The Native Language Project” at last week’s work session. The effort is gaining momentum amongst staff, administration, and school board members, and it seeks to have 100 percent of Nome’s elementary students introduce themselves in a local language dialect by the end of the school year. The idea is, in part, fueled by recent visits to board meetings by young Inupiaq adults who are interested in language revitalization.
Nome’s Hattie Keller is one of several young adults who support the project for its efforts toward reclaiming language and identity for people indigenous to the region. “This is our ancestral language, and it’s a priority,” Keller explained. “It’s been a long process of healing from assimilation, and we’re trying to learn our language now.” Annie Conger is one of two Native Culture teachers at the elementary school; she, along with Josie Bourdon, teaches Inupiaq words and phrases to the kids. “We’re going to work with the younger kids to introduce themselves, and then add to that as they get older,” Conger told board members. “In that way we’re teaching the kids: who you are and building on that, adding who your family is, where your family is from, and what language your family speaks. It teaches them the language, it teaches them their family trees, and their identity, which is very important to our kids these days.”
Phyllis Walluk teaches Native culture at the high school, and will be working with students in the St. Lawrence Island Yupik language. Board members agreed that the language instruction throughout the district would have a positive effect on students.
College and Career Advisor Caroline Proulx visited the work session to describe for board members her work with high school seniors. Proulx’s position at the high school focuses on assisting upperclassmen with their postsecondary plans. She is employed by the Alaska College and Career Advising Core, and her position is funded through several sources, including support from Norton Sound Economic Corporation. Her role, Proulx described, is to increase a culture in which students aspire to participate in higher education. “Post secondary preparation includes two-year college, four-year college, vocational schools, and certificate programs. Students are beginning to understand that they will need some type of certification in order to get a job after high school,” Proulx said. Proulx seeks to place recent college graduates in mentorship positions around the country. Since she started at Beltz a year ago, Proulx has worked mostly with juniors and seniors as they formulate plans for the future. This fall she will host a “Get Real” financial reality fair, which will give students an interactive opportunity to explore several potential financial scenarios.
In other school board news:
• The board reviewed changes to the language in its policy concerning gang activity; the second reading and approval will take place at the next regular meeting.
• School boards around the state are introducing resolutions to bring forth at the Alaska Association of School Boards (AASB) in November. Committees are then responsible for reviewing the additions and changes before recommending resolutions to the legislature. Superintendent Shawn Arnold encouraged the Nome Board of Education members to consider proposing the language revitalization project as a priority. Arnold also suggested that Nome have representation on the state board, and he indicated that board president Barb Amarok would be an appropriate nominee. “She is getting more involved at the state level, and I think she would be a good representative of our region to the state,” Arnold said.
The school board will meet again for their regular meeting on Tuesday, September 13.