Greyhills Academy teachers Annette Hemstreet and Alan Jim have been included in the 6th Edition of Who’s Who Among High School Teachers. To be considered for this honor, a teacher must be nominated by one or more of his or her former students who themselves have been distinguished by being listed in either Who’s Who Among American High School
Students or The National Dean’s List.
Being chosen for Who’s Who was a complete surprise for both teachers. “A lot of people knew it before me,” she admitted. Hemstreet was at a cross-country meet when people started coming up to her and congratulating her. Jim learned the news from Hemstreet. “Annette came over and said, ‘Hey Al, did you know someone put us in for the Who’s Who Among American High School Teachers?” Jim laughingly admitted.
Annette Hemstreet was born and raised in Tuba City. In fact she attended the same school she now teaches in, only in those days Greyhills Academy was Tuba City High School. The classroom she now teaches in is much quieter these days; it was the band classroom when she was a student.
As a young girl, Hemstreet imagined she might be a nurse when she grew up. That notion was changed in the fifth grade, when she met a teacher, Lorraine Danner, who changed her life.
“She was always telling me that I was very giving and kind, and that one day I would be a good teacher. She became my role model, and from that point on all I wanted was to be a teacher,” Hemstreet said.
Hemstreet considers this honor as one of the greatest awards she could receive as a teacher. That she was nominated tells her that, like Danner, she has also inspired one of her own students. “When I saw the name of my student who nominated me, I cried,” she admitted.
“I tell my students that role models are a good thing, but be sure to pick the right one, and to believe in yourself. You can do it. By setting goals and working hard at them, anything is possible.”
Hemstreet is certainly a positive role model. She and her husband, Jonathan, met as freshmen in the building she now teaches in. They have been married for 20 years and have three children. Her son Kyle, now a college student, was a Who’s Who Among American High School Students scholar in both his sophomore and junior years.
Hemstreet teaches Health Education and Effective Parenting. “A lot of the stuff we deal with are real issues for these kids. Alcoholism, health concerns, sexually transmitted diseases, violence and drug prevention, nutrition.” Hemstreet has never smoked or consumed alcohol, a fact that fuels lively discussions in the classroom.
In Effective Parenting, she teaches youth how to prevent pregnancy. She takes them through the process of pregnancy, and explains the need for good nutrition. “How they can raise a healthy self and a healthy child?” she puts it. She is a concerned and caring teacher, and is there for her students.
For example, one of Hemstreet’s students gave the whole class a scare the week before by going into labor four or five weeks before her due date. Fortunately she was stabilized.
The girl is in Hemstreet’s classroom this day; she has been placed in a homebound situation by her doctor to avoid early delivery, and Hemstreet is helping her plan a curriculum that the student can work through at home, staying on track with her education.
Alan Jim teaches both Ceramics and Design; he has been a teacher for 11 years, at Greyhills and Northern Arizona University. His teaching is not limited to the classroom; he travels across the United States teaching other educators and interested people how to teach Native American students, and what it’s like to teach at a school like Greyhills Academy.
Where Hemstreet always knew she’d return to Tuba City, Jim has worked off the reservation, holding lucrative jobs in Phoenix and Tucson. He gave up a “real good” job at Intel to return to Greyhills.
It was his love of teaching, working with Native American youth that made him give up more profitable endeavors. Nonetheless, he is critical of the Navajo Nation and its educational system, believing that more efforts must be made to attract and retain good educators. He is willing to use himself as an example.
“I think it’s really important that the Navajo Nation and individual schools honor their educators. For example at both the Western Agency Fair and Window Rock Fair no one honored anything about education. I was not invited or recognized—not that I was seeking it. I was the first Native to ever become Art Teacher of the Year for the State of Arizona High Schools Division (in 1999). The Tribe never recognized me.” Nor have he and other Who’s Who teachers been recognized for this latest honor.
“The Nation needs to develop other incentives for teachers and other professionals on the reservation. Because there are better paying jobs off the reservation.” Jim suggests the creation of avenues by which professionals could obtain loans, or by offering awards of vehicles. “I commute a thousand miles a week to teach at Greyhills!”
Jim also believes that more teachers, especially on reservations, should become more active in their field. “Not just with school, but in ongoing research. There is hardly any research in the field of teaching Native American students. So many people out there want to know what it’s like to teach Native students.
“Then there are too many teachers who get their job, and that’s how they look at it—a job. They don’t view teaching as a science or profession. They get their degree and then they just teach. They don’t find out why the curriculum works, or not, or what they could do to improve that. I see very little of that happening out here.”
Both Jim and Hemstreet received their formal education at Northern Arizona University. Jim received his undergraduate and graduate degrees, but wasn’t admitted to a doctorate program there. He leaned back in his chair with his signature grin. “But that’s okay, I’ve come to learn that I can be Art Teacher of the Year and in Who’s Who without that.”