Why is TFA in SD? Why do I need a Go Fund Me?

It may seem odd to some people back home that Teach for America is placing in Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools and it may seem even odder to people back home that I’ve created a Go Fund Me to help financially support the upstart of my classroom…But, let me share some real-life facts with you all about the reality my students face daily here in Pine Ridge:

Education Stats:

  • Only 25.5% of students at Loneman were considered proficient or advanced in ELA in 2014
  • Only 9.63% of students at Loneman were considered proficient or advanced in math in 2014
  • In 2014, South Dakota’s total high school graduation rate was 82.74%, for white students it was 88.49%, and for Native students it was only 46.98%
  • The average total composite ACT score in South Dakota in 2012 was 21.8, however for Native students the average was only 16.2
  • Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of AI/AN eighth-graders report never talking to a school counselor about classes for high school or about what they wanted to do after high school
  • According to a Bureau of Indian Affairs report, the Pine Ridge Reservation schools are in the bottom 10% of school funding by U.S. Department of Education and the Bureau of Indian Affairs
  • The teacher turnover rate is 800% that of the U.S. national average

Daily Life Stats:

  • 97% of of the population in Pine Ridge live below federal poverty line
  • The unemployment rate vacillates from 85% to 95% on the Reservation
  • The infant mortality rate is the highest on this continent and is about 300% higher than the U.S. national average.
  • The shortest average life expectancy for any community in the Western Hemisphere outside Haiti, according to The Wall Street Journal
  • The median income in the Pine Ridge Reservation is approximately $2,600 per year
  • Teenage suicide rate in the Pine Ridge Reservation is 150% higher than the U.S. national average for this age group
  • The rate of diabetes on the Reservation is reported to be 800% higher than the U.S. national average
  • The death rate from alcohol-related problems on the Reservation is 300% higher than the remaining US population
  • There is a large homeless population on the Reservation, but most families never turn away a relative no matter how distant the blood relation. Consequently, many homes have large numbers of people living in them.
  • Alcoholism affects eight out of ten families on the Reservation.

And if you’re interested in learning more this article is a good source from Education Week: http://www.edweek.org/ew/projects/2013/native-american-education/running-in-place.html

I don’t share these statistics to make you pity my students. I share this information so that you realize the real life situations all children and teenagers in this area face on a daily basis. YET, they are still smiling and trying. These kids are so resilient that it truly amazes me and I hope you find their resilience just as inspiring.





National Indian Education Study: July 2012




Why am I here?

“Why are you here?” was a question posed to the 2016 SoDak Core Members and when it was first asked I wasn’t sure how to answer.

I can tell you why I want to teach. I can tell you why I think education is important. I can tell you why I want to have classroom experience before going back to get a masters and work in the policy field. I can tell you why I chose to apply for and accept a position with TFA. I can tell you why I love the state of South Dakota. HoBadlandViewswever, I couldn’t adequately answer why I am here.

So naturally, this question has just been stuck in my mind for past four days and has really been driving me crazy. So, bear with me as I try to formulate answer.

One of my new neighbors will actually be in my class this year and while we’ve now had quite a few conversations together the one that has stuck out to me the most if one we had two nights ago. We were chatting about dogs and summer and out of nowhere she looks at me and says, “you know, I’ve got goals. I want to join the military someday.” The reason this statement has stuck with me so much is because I know these students have goals. I know they have big dreams, even if they haven’t quite realized them yet. I know that when I was in the 6th grade I was already thinking about college and what would come next for me after college.

I believe it’s never too early to start thinking about career goals and I want to be here for my 6th grade students to help them realize their goals if they haven’t already as well as help them get on the path they need to achieve those dreams.

It sounds lofty and cliche, but I want Ms. Dorrell’s sixth grade class to be a class full of dreamers. A class who recognizes their own individual potentials. A class who is dedicated to making their dreams come true.

I’m not here to be a savior for these kids. I’m not here to be best the teacher these kids have ever had. I’m not here to make myself feel good.

These students matter. Plain and simple. These students have dreams and as a teacher it is my job to help them be able to reach for and achieve those dreams.