A $1.1 million federal grant will enable Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College and the University of Wisconsin-Superior to launch a collaborative program to prepare more Native American teachers, including some proficient in the Ojibwe language.

The grant from the U.S. Department of Education will fund the first four years of the Lac Courte Oreilles Future Indian Teachers Project. The grant was received by Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College in cooperation with the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Council and UW-Superior.

The need for native teachers to teach native children has long been recognized. However, the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation and all of northwestern Wisconsin face a severe shortage of Native American teachers. The Future Indian Teachers Project seeks to solve that shortage by preparing Native American teachers skilled in the latest teaching methods and fluent in Ojibwe language and culture.

Sarah Butler, the project coordinator, states, “I am ready and excited to start working on this grant. I am a true believer in education and our children deserve to learn from the teachers our Ojibwe communities already have here. They just need that degree and the guidance to obtain it, but the question was and always has been, ‘How?’ This grant was written with the vision of Dr. Roy Jonjak, Lorene Wielgot, UW-Superior, and the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Governing Board and it is a great vision! With the LCO Ojibwa Community College and UW-Superior working together to prepare Future Indian Teachers, the success of our students will flourish within the youth of our community and I am honored to be a part of that.”

“It’s long been recognized that Native American students are more successful when they have teachers who bridge the gap between education and culture,” said Terri Kronzer, chair of the Educational Leadership Department and associate dean of Graduate Studies at UW-Superior. “Through the Future Indian Teachers Project, we will provide highly qualified teachers who are classroom ready.”

The goal of the Future Indian Teachers Project is for 15 students to earn bachelor’s degrees in education from UW-Superior by 2015. Ojibwe language and culture will be a key part of the curriculum. Five of the teachers will be trained as Ojibwe Language Immersion Instructors for the Waadookodaading Ojibwe Charter School located at the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation.

After completing their UW-Superior degrees, the teachers will complete a one-year teaching internship in the K-12 schools on the LCO reservation, located near Hayward, Wis.

Students enrolling in the teacher training program can live at home and receive assistance through scholarships and stipends. UW-Superior faculty will teach some courses at Lac Courte Oreilles while others will be offered through interactive television and online through the university’s Distance Learning Center.

Enabling students to remain close to home is one way to attract more people to the program.

“One of the goals of UW-Superior’s Educational Leadership Department is to recruit under-represented students into our teacher education program. We know Native American students often are more successful if they can live near home and be close to family and tribal support,” Kronzer said.

Success in obtaining funding for the Future Indian Teachers Project grew from an effort by members of the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Council to work with UW-Superior to obtain a Department of Education grant to create a program to recruit and train teachers.

“The right people came together at the right time for this to be successful,” Kronzer said. “It was the work of the LCO Tribal Council, the administration of Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College, Waadookodaading Ojibwe Charter School, UW-Superior’s Educational Leadership Department, and Dr. Sue Masterson and I had the backing of UW-Superior’s chancellor and provost.”

Officials involved in the Future Indian Teachers Project want it to become a long-term effort to solve the region’s shortage of Native American teachers.

“We’re hoping this program will generate interest among LCO students to enter our teacher education program so the Future Indian Teachers Project becomes self-sustaining,” Kronzer said.