Denver Teacher Leadership Summit

WoLakota: Retaining and Supporting Teachers in Rural and High Needs Communities

“WoLakota” is a Lakota word which implies balance and coming together. The WoLakota project supports students in rural and high-need schools, pairing trained mentor-teachers with new teachers and providing Courage to Teach circles to tend to the ʻheartsʼ of each. Mentors support the embedding of the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings (OSEU) into practice, complementing the Common Core. The OSEU address the achievement gap of American Indian students by embracing their identity, and promote cultural understanding among non-native students and teachers. Lakota Elder Dottie LeBeau states, “When we approach teaching with one worldview…we create systems of failure in our schools.”


WoLakota closes the circle into a system of understanding and success. In its second year of existence, the WoLakota Project is helping address the Native American achievement gap through supporting the teachers serving in these difficult positions. Some schools in these areas have a 100% turn-over of teachers in any given year causing the students being served to have a new to the profession teacher every year. It is impossible to address the learning needs of these students until we can first address the issue of the teachers leaving. The WoLakota Project helps teachers connect within the communities they are living and also provides the support of a mentor who assists with learning about the cultural needs of the students and community as well as the skills all new teachers need to succeed.



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Idea No. 192