Teach For America CEO Meets with Tribal Leaders, Partners, and Schools on Pine Ridge Reservation

Elisa Villanueva Beard’s Visit This Week Focused on Partnership, Collaboration, and Learning


Mission, S.D., September 2, 2016—Teach For America CEO Elisa Villanueva Beard visited South Dakota this week to meet with tribal and education leaders, partners, and schools on the Pine Ridge Reservation. During her visit, she discussed the local educational landscape, critical community needs, and ways in which thoughtful collaboration can help better support Native students on their educational journeys.

”Experiencing a small part of the rich culture and history of the Oglala Lakota and Sicangu Lakota people has been inspirational,” Villanueva Beard said. “I’m humbled by the generosity, warmth, and partnership offered by local leaders, and excited for Teach For America to continue building on this foundation as an ally of the American Indian communities in their efforts to establish educational equity and excellence for their students.”

Teach For America established a partnership with South Dakota in 2004 with 17 corps members across the Rosebud and Pine Ridge reservations. In 2015, local communities welcomed nearly 30 corps members to the Pine Ridge, Rosebud, and Standing Rock tribal nations. Teach For America–South Dakota has established formal partnerships with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Rosebud Sioux Tribe, as well as Red Cloud Indian School, to recruit more Native leaders to teach in tribal communities throughout the state. Shoulder to shoulder with community partners, Teach For America is striving toward college-readiness, cultural awareness, and identity-rooted pride for all Native students living on reservations in South Dakota.

“It was important for us as tribal members to meet with Elisa, as Teach For America has an investment in South Dakota that requires dialogue with local leaders about impact and progress,” said Beverly Tuttle, Porcupine Day School board member. “The Teach For America teachers at our school have made a strong impact because they consistently put a lot of energy and hard work into our students and community. Both Native and non-Native Teach For America teachers at Porcupine Day School strive to implement culturally responsive teaching methods and provide positive examples for our students.  We have seen the progress, and our students feel the connection to the teachers.”

Teach For America launched the Native Achievement Initiative (later renamed the Native Alliance Initiative) in May 2009. The Native Alliance Initiative works hand in hand with tribes and Native communities to expand educational opportunities for their students. The initiative was created to support and provide corps members with more strategies for incorporating tribal and community culture into the classroom, to recruit more Native leaders to the teaching profession, and to develop a critical pipeline of leaders committed to advocating for Native communities and children.

Teach For America knows great teachers come from all backgrounds and that committed individuals—whether they share student’s racial identity or not —can be powerful classroom leaders. Teach For America also believes that teachers who share the backgrounds of their students can have a profound additional impact by leveraging shared cultural and linguistic attributes. Since its inception, the Native Alliance Initiative has increased the number of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian individuals in Teach For America’s leadership force of corps members and alumni from 40 to nearly 300, impacting nearly 38,000 students, representing more than 100 federally recognized tribes.

Photo Captions

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Teach For America CEO Elisa Villaneuva Beard tours Wounded Knee

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Teach For America CEO Elisa Villanueva Beard meets with tribal education leaders in South Dakota

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Teach For America CEO Elisa Villaneuva Beard meets with students at Little Wound

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Teach For America Executive Director Elisa Villanueva Beard meets with Teach For America-South Dakota staff member Beau LaBeaux and South Dakota’s Director of Indian Education Mato Standing High on key local education issues

About Teach For America

Teach For America works in partnership with communities to expand educational opportunity for children facing the challenges of poverty. Founded in 1990, Teach For America recruits and develops a diverse corps of outstanding college graduates and professionals to make an initial two-year commitment to teach in high-need schools and become lifelong leaders in the effort to end educational inequity. During the 2015-16 school year, 8,600 corps members taught in 52 urban and rural regions across the country while more than 42,000 alumni worked across sectors to ensure that all children have access to an excellent education. Teach For America is a proud member of the AmeriCorps national service network. For more information, visit www.teachforamerica.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.