Teachers Institute Approach
Teachers Institutes are educational partnerships between universities and school districts designed to strengthen teaching and learning in a community’s high-poverty public schools. An Institute places equal emphasis on teachers increasing their knowledge of a subject and of their developing teaching strategies that will be effective with their students. At the core of its program is a series of collaborative seminars on subjects in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences. Topics are requested by the teachers based on what they think could enrich their classroom instruction. In the seminars, university or college faculty members contribute their knowledge of a subject, while the school teachers contribute their expertise in elementary and secondary school pedagogy, their understanding of the students they teach, and their grasp of what works in the crucible of the classroom. Successful completion of a seminar requires that the teachers, with guidance from a faculty member, write an original curriculum unit to be used in their own classroom and to be shared with others in the same school and other schools through electronic publication.
Seminars: An innovative approach to professional development
Each year, the DINÉ offers several 8-month seminars on various topics that K-12 teachers have selected. The seminars are led by university faculty with expertise in relevant content areas. Seminar leaders work with Diné elders to ensure the material is closely connected to Navajo culture, knowledge, history, and language. Through collaborative research and in-depth reading, Teacher Fellows deepen their own content knowledge in the seminar topic. Each teacher creates a curriculum unit for use in their classroom, and the units are also published online. Curriculum units must align to district, state, national, and Diné standards.
The DINÉ seminars also include the development of Fellows’ writing. Improving one’s writing skills and confidence is an important aspect of teacher leadership, so we integrate structured writing support throughout the seminar process.
The general schedule for the DINÉ seminars each year is as follows:
- Welcome and orientation session: One Saturday in April (9am-4pm) at NAU.
- Summer intensive session: Last week of June at NAU. Teacher Fellows reside in campus housing and all meals are provided. Seminars and other events are scheduled throughout the day and evening for every day the Fellows are in residence.
- Fall monthly sessions: One Saturday (9am-4pm) in August and another Saturday (9am-4pm) in September located in rotating locations on Navajo (i.e. in schools/buildings provided by partnering districts).
- Final Conference: One Saturday (10am-3pm) in early December at NAU, Teacher Fellows present the culmination of their work and district, tribal, and university leaders and supporters come together to learn about and honor the Fellows’ achievements.