One of Hopi’s own returns to teach
FLAGSTAFF—One more Hopi has joined the teaching staff at Hopi Junior/Senior High School.
Lucille Sidney, who earned a bachelor’s in education in history and social studies from Northern Arizona University in December, has a long history with Hopi High. Not only did she graduate from the school in 1991—making this her tenth anniversary—she also did her student teaching here with Gerald Flud, her former teacher.
“Ever since I was interested in teaching, I wanted to teach here, because this is my home. This has been by number one priority,” she said.
Sidney will teach U.S. history and government—tribal, state and federal.
“Students should have a basic idea of how the government works, what role the U.S. government has played historically and how we live within the U.S. and tribal systems,” she said.
Sidney said she will also teach Navajo government because about 20 percent of the students attending Hopi Junior/Senior High are Navajo.
“We owe it to them to learn about their government—and I’ll be learning it along with them,” she said. “We want to know the basic ideas of various governments.”
Many believe that having members of their own tribe serving as teachers is beneficial for the students, since Native teachers tend to have more commitment than those who come from off the reservation.
“We need teachers from the same background. It helps the students understand. We know the ways to get the ideas across to them,” she said, adding that the students may use her as an example, going to college and coming back to the reservation to teach.
Sidney said she hopes the families of students who want to go to college will encourage them. “Everybody needs that encouragement. I was fortunate to have a family that sacrificed a lot,” she said.
One of her biggest supporters was her mother Sylvia, she said, who died of an illness in 1999.
“She was an independent woman and tried to pass that down to me. She believed that education was the way to independence,” she said.
Her father Leonard Talaswaima has also encouraged her. She noted that he returned to college after pursuing different careers.
Vice Chairman Phillip Quochytewa also praised Sidney, saying that he has supported the partnership between the Hopi Tribe and NAU that puts Native Americans on the road to their teaching degrees.
“We want to recruit Hopi teachers; we’re hoping for a 100 percent completion rate from this program. She’s a perfect example of what we would like to see. Our own students will see that and it’s something for them to strive for,” he said.
The vice chairman said Hopi teachers, nurses, doctors and professionals are needed. If more Hopis were educators and in other professions, he said, then they would be better able to make decisions about their lives.