The Navajo-Hopi Observer recently sat in on a class taught by Nathan Brady.
Brady teaches the Navajo language using heavy doses of Navajo history, traditions and culture.
How many and which Navajo language classes do you teach here at Winslow High School?
I teach two different classes of Navajo Language 1 and two different classes of Navajo Language 2, which is an accelerated class. Then I teach a class of Navajo Government which defines history and the current state of the Navajo Nation. We have to teach tradition and history in order for the students to comprehend the Navajo language.
In your classes how many of your students are fluent in the Navajo language?
In my classes only about 2 percent of students would be considered fluent in Navajo. I would guess that my generation did not do a good job of teaching the language at home. I was fortunate in that my grandparents were fluent in Navajo and English as did my mom and my dad. Both my grandparents and parents spoke to me in Navajo so I grew up with the comprehension of Navajo and well as the English language.
How long have you taught at Winslow High School?
This is my fourth year of teaching the Navajo Language at WHS.
Where are you originally from?
I was raised north of Winslow on a ranch 14 miles west of Dilkon where my maternal grandparents located in the 1930s. They established the Salt People Clan in that area. My dad was started off the Rez in a Winslow Dorm as a fourth grader. I was raised on a ranch home with no electricity or running water raising horses, cattle and sheep.
Do you have any family or kids?
I have three siblings, two older sisters one of which is the principal at Sanders High School, the other sister works at WIHCC. My younger brother is pursuing self-directed education and taking care of our parents. My wife is a Safety Officer at WIHCC in Winslow. We have been married for 21 years. We have two daughters, Kayla is 19 and attending NPC then there is Taylor, 16, who is a junior here at Winslow High School.
What is the best part about teaching for you?
Getting the students in the palm of my hand – relating my experiences and Navajo history, in order to get the teaching material across. Making the Navajo language understandable in a non-mysterious presentation. Helping them to enjoy pride in being able to express themselves in the Navajo language.
What is the most difficult part of teaching?
Just making sure I bring enthusiasm into the classroom every day. Most all of my cultural insights and Navajo history I learned outside the classroom and I bring it into the classroom here to inspire my students.
Would you recommend teaching as a career?
Yes I would. Helping the youngsters gain knowledge and to see them advance in knowledge, makes it all worthwhile.