Human resource director role at Tuba City schools has direct impact on local youth

Theresa Hatathlie, human resources director at Tuba City Unified School District #15, poses for a picture during a break at the 2019 Winter Solstice Cultural Symposium on Jan. 2 at Tuba City High School in Tuba City, Arizona. (Joshua L. Butler/NHO)

Theresa Hatathlie, human resources director at Tuba City Unified School District #15, poses for a picture during a break at the 2019 Winter Solstice Cultural Symposium on Jan. 2 at Tuba City High School in Tuba City, Arizona. (Joshua L. Butler/NHO)

TUBA CITY, Ariz. — Theresa Hatathlie, human resources director at Tuba City Unified School District #15, is a rare find. It is not every day you come across an employee who has come full circle in their advocacy for human development at all levels.

Hatathlie brings more than 20 years of experience working in the realms of early childhood development, working with children from ages five to 24 years of age, working with young adults in post-secondary schools, working with young professionals, working with experienced educators and professionals, and working to establish a pipeline of certified educators to teach the youth that she has always advocated for.

A rare find indeed and that is why the school district wasted no time in recruiting her to help lead their efforts to establish a strong certified staff of teachers and professionals at their schools.

She has been with the school district since November 2018. She spent nearly two decades working hands-on with youth of all ages while working for the Navajo Nation. She served in various leadership roles to manage and coordinate youth programs to teach and mentor youth on the brink of success.

Hatathlie is from Coalmine Mesa, Ariz., a 15-minute drive east of Tuba City. She was raised locally and is a product of the school district. She is an alumna of Northern Arizona University where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management with a certification in human resources management.

Aside from her work as a human resources director and with youth, she explained her primary role in life is being a mother first and taking care of her family. She also enjoys doing crafts, which her mother taught her.

She credits her strong traditional upbringing and teachings of her parents that kept her grounded, humble and motivated. Her father always emphasized, in every role in life, “Áká›a›alyeed ‘át’é.” She explained that her father stressed that teaching and that being in a helping role is the best characteristic to have to uplift your family and community.

In 2011, she was appointed to the Diné College Board of Regents as a western Navajo representative advocating for higher education at the very school her uncle Dr. Ned A. Hatathli helped to establish more than 50 years ago. Her strong advocacy for improved educational programs has helped to improve and expand the college. Her advocacy has taken her to state legislative hearings in Phoenix to testify on behalf of beneficial programs for college students, and her advocacy has been heard in the halls of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Most recently, she was in Phoenix advocating before the state’s education committee for increased funding to address remedial education.

There is a saying that one’s advocacy and life’s work comes full circle and that is certainly happening for Hatathlie. She has advocated most of her professional career for youth and she finds herself working with youth but in a different capacity that allows her to help recruit the best educators for their classrooms. She considers her overall advocacy as nation-building.

In her current role, the importance of employee value and empowerment is a priority and adherence to governing board polices.

“Here in this organization, our priority is students and also giving the employees a sense of value. It provides them motivation to do more in their capacities to educate students,” she said.

She takes her job seriously because her efforts have a direct impact on the future of countless children. Her primary functions as the human resources director is recruitment of certified teachers and providing resources to staff in areas of professional development. She also helps with benefits, from health insurance and medical, disability and life insurance, and she serves as a benefits coordinator.

One of her biggest accomplishments thus far is chipping away at the high vacancies at the school district which has been nearly cut in half since she started. She focuses on employee values and motivation, and to ensure resources are available to employees, such as addressing a lack of employee housing.

She explained her job is more than just being a human resources director. She has also been coordinating with local community partners, specifically with workforce hubs to offer opportunities to recruit and train bus drivers. She has also reached out to local colleges to provide sites for student-teachers to complete their practicums.

On most days, you can find her in her office situated in the school district office. If she is not there, than she is on site at one of the schools, in a meeting, presentation or out of town advocating for youth and education before policy makers.

She is definitely a rare find.

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