Elementary school thrives in Bodaway-Gap community

Tsinaabaas Habitiin school teachers find a way to collaborate with outside educators despite remote location

Tsinaabaas Habitiin, part of the Tuba City Unified School District, is located in the Bodaway-Gap area of the Navajo Reservation on U.S. 89. Photo/Rosanda Suetopka Thayer

Tsinaabaas Habitiin, part of the Tuba City Unified School District, is located in the Bodaway-Gap area of the Navajo Reservation on U.S. 89. Photo/Rosanda Suetopka Thayer

BODAWAY-GAP, Ariz. - Before a major landslide closed a portion of Highway 89 near Page, people driving the road probably never noticed a little, hidden school nestled high among the big, red-rock sandstone bluffs near Gap and Bodaway, 17 miles north of the Tuba City turn off and about 92 miles northeast of Flagstaff.

Tsinaabaas Habitiin Elementary School (THES), part of the Tuba City Unified School District (TCUSD), has been in operation for nine years. The school recently partnered with Vail School District to use the Beyond Textbooks program. Despite the school's somewhat remote location, the program allows teachers to access and share lesson plans and other resources with teachers in other geographic areas.

Beyond Textbooks provides THES teachers access to a variety of digital materials cataloged to specific standards. The program helps teachers search for quality resources and keeps the cost for textbooks low.

Tsinaabaas Habitiin (Wagon Trail) teaches 52 students, an increase from 27 students enrolled as of August 2012.

Principal Sanora Isaac has been the principal at THES for two years. She has been a teacher and mentor in the district for 17 years.

THES has five certified teachers - kindergarten through fourth grade - and three support personnel including a secretary, custodian and food service worker, one long-term substitute and one bus driver.

Students study regular state approved curriculum and participate in school clubs including chess club and glee club as well as sports, art and dance.

Isaac said she would like to see more students from the Bodaway Gap, Cedar Ridge and Bittersprings communities attend Tsinaabaas Habitiin.

"Tsinaabaa Habitiin is the ideal school to serve this local, close-knit community," she said. "The student learning methods and how much hard work that the THES staff put in every single day for each student is really beginning to show. Parental involvement is also a primary key to student success and one of our goals is to get 100 percent parent participation."

Isaac also said the district has considered opening THES to adult education classes, eventually using the school for GED on-line learning. She also mentioned possibly offering free vocational welding, culinary arts and construction classes for parents who have students enrolled at THES.

"I give much credit to my staffers at THES because they are truly highly qualified showing excellence in education practice to be servicing and caring for the academic welfare of the Gap community students" Isaac said.

The Tuba City district has been in existence since 1954 when it only had two small buildings to call its own, one a former Bureau of Indian Affairs building just east of the Tuba City Trading Post and a basement underneath an older church annex on Main Street in Tuba City.

Today, TCUSD operates seven schools for students in grades kindergarten-12 with more than 2,200 students currently enrolled.

More information about the Tsinaabaas Habitiin School is available at (928) 283-1090.

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