Knox Faculty and Students Study in America's Southwest

Program provides opportunity to practice teaching at Navajo nation

September 22, 2009

Navajo teachers taught Knox students the finer points of making frybread - a staple of Navajo culture.Six Knox students headed to the desert. There, they expanded their studies, and broadened their horizons and immersed themselves in the American Southwest. The students, accompanied by Diana Beck, professor and co-chair of educational studies, and Stephen Schroth, assistant professor of educational studies, traveled to the Navajo nation as participants in Knox's Navajo Professional Teaching Development Program. The program provides students with the opportunity to practice culturally appropriate teaching at the Navajo Lutheran Mission School.

Before traveling to the reservation, students took a half-credit course on culturally sensitive curricular development and instruction. They also studied the cultural and socio-political landscape of the reservation's educational system. Each student became an expert in one area with which the school needed particular help, such as math and art skills or library proficiency. They spent the first week at the school providing teachers with intensive workshops and lessons on a variety of topics; the second with both teachers and students helping the teachers put into practice what they learned.

"This was a great opportunity to learn about another culture," said Ashley Witzke '10, who is student teaching this fall. "I can now apply this experience in my own classroom."

Knox students take a break while working at the Navajo Lutheran Mission School.The trip to the Navajo nation was made possible through the Harry T. and Leone Goulding Fund, which was established in 1993 to support the education of Navajo students at Knox College. Monies from the fund also can be used to conduct Knox College programs designed to improve the education of the Navajo people.

"These students might be the first to travel to the Navajo nation, but they won't be the last," Schroth said. "Thanks to the monies from The Goulding Fund, the Navajo Professional and Teaching Development Program will be available to Knox students for years to come. This experience was invaluable for our students in many ways, not the least of which was the opportunity to experience first-hand how to set up a classroom in real time, working with teachers to get ready for students in an environment that had recently been renovated and remodeled."

Knox's Navajo Professional Teaching Development Program within the Educational Studies curriculum and a part of Knox's Short Term Off-Campus Programs. These programs combine studies and real-world experiences. By immersing themselves into another culture, students put what they learn to use in real-world situations through field trips, research assignments, and other "on-site" fieldwork.