by Julie Lineback
Having firsthand experience with mentoring programs for state and regional agencies that do little to help new teachers or local schools, University of West Georgia College of Education doctoral student, Chris Fried, knew there had to be a better way. As the division of education director at Sitting Bull College (SBC)—a tribal college located on the Standing Rock Reservation in Fort Yates, N.D.—he began to delve deeper and discovered the lack of programs hit even closer to home.
“When I started researching mentoring and induction programs, there was very little literature on these programs in Native American schools or schools on reservations,” said Fried, who is enrolled in COE’s doctorate in school improvement program. “I felt like this needed to be explored more as there was a gap in the research.”
According to the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, there are approximately 326 American Indian land areas in the country administered as federal American Indian reservations. The Bureau of Indian Education serves over 48,800 American Indian and Alaska Native students in 183 schools across 23 states. There are 35 tribal colleges and universities.
He said the significance of his research is twofold.
“First, identifying the needs and support for new teachers is important—we can take this information and develop a unique mentoring or induction program at SBC for our area schools,” Fried explained. “Second, this could help with teacher retention, which is an issue for some of our local schools. Staff consistency is key for the success of students and schools.”
Teachers on American Indian reservations face unique challenges other educators may not, Fried said. These include poverty, truancy, historical trauma and limited resources. He hopes his work will alleviate some of these challenges.
“It will help new teachers understand more about these challenges while providing support to work through and address these challenges in their classrooms,” he observed. “It is important to me to keep quality teachers in our area schools, so the support they receive during their first several years is essential.”
Fried will receive his Ed.D. in spring 2018. The program is offered 100 percent online, which he said allows him to study around his time at work and with family. The coursework and its focus on sustainable improvement in schools further attracted him to COE. Leadership is a big component of the curriculum, and the knowledge he has gained will serve him well within his department and for local schools.
“At the tribal colleges the focus is expanding,” Fried reflected. “There seems to be more of an awareness of an indigenous education. There are more native people taking interest in things like becoming teachers and getting into the schools. Enrollment in our program is up this year, and the trend looks like it’s going to continue to grow. The future looks brighter each day for our local areas.”