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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


January 24, 2004 - Issue 105


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Kayenta teacher surprised with $25,000 award

by Levi J. Long - The Navajo Times

Language Arts teacher Patricia Saganey Wayne, from KayentaKAYENTA, Ariz. - A Kayenta Middle School teacher got the surprise of her career when she was presented with a $25,000 check at a school assembly last Friday.

Language Arts teacher Patricia Saganey Wayne, from Kayenta, was given the check that came as part of the 2003 Milken Family Foundation National Education Award.

Wayne is the second Navajo to receive the award. Last year the award went to Charlotte Begay, an adult education coordinator with the child education program at Wingate Elementary School in Ft. Wingate, N.M.

She is Nakai Dine'e (Mexican People Clan), born for Todich'ii'nii (Bitter Water Clan). Her chei's clan is Kinyaa'nii (Towering House People Clan) and her nali's clan is Tl'iziani (Many Goats Clan).

Arizona Superintendent Tom Horne traveled from Phoenix to make the surprise announcement and presentation. Horne spoke about the importance of teachers before making the announcement.

Horne then announced Wayne's name. Holding her hand over her face while hundreds of students stomped their feet to thunderous applause, Wayne accepted the award.

"This is such an opportunity...I'm shaking," Wayne said at the microphone. "I don't know what to say...Thank you."

Wayne is one of 100 teachers nationally recognized for the 2003 Milken award, said Brenda S. Fox-Gray, director of special projects and constituent services for the Arizona Department of Education.

She said the awards are usually given out in December but due to scheduling conflicts with tribal leaders, the presentation had to wait until after the Christmas break.

Fox-Gray said the National Educator Awards program is set up to reward, retain and attract quality teachers through the Milken Family Foundation. The private foundation was established in 1982.

Fox-Gray said 1,800 nominations were sent to Arizona schools in 2003 and the nominations were narrowed down to 180 applications. After pre-interviews, the applications were cut down to five. A committee then sorted through the applications to select the teachers.

Two awards were given in Arizona. The other recipient of the award was Spanish teacher Sheryl Castro of Catalina Foothills High School in Tucson.

The $25,000 check can be used however the recipients wish. Wayne said she wasn't sure how she'd spend the money.

"I don't know what to do with the money. Gosh I'm still shaking...maybe I'll go to Disney World," Wayne said, laughing. "But I really don't know."
Council Delegate Roy Laughter (Chilchinbito/Kayenta) knew Wayne as a "jolly ol' kid."

"We're finally getting recognized in northern Arizona. This just shows that we take education seriously. I'd like to see it continue," Laughter said.

Rep. Sylvia Laughter, I-Kayenta, who was also on hand at the presentation, said she went to high school with Wayne.

"When I found out, I was so excited. She is such a sweet, sweet lady," Laughter said. "She has come so far...this sends a message to our kids, that any child can get anywhere with hard work. She sets an example for the Navajo Nation, because this is one of the highest achievements any teacher can get."

Wayne graduated from Monument Valley High School in 1978. She then went to Brigham Young University and got her bachelor's degree in education. She then went to Northern Arizona University to get a master's degree in multi-cultural and bilingual education.

Wayne then returned to the Navajo Nation to teach junior high school - a message she got from former chairman Peter MacDonald who encouraged children to come back to the reservation after their schooling was done.

After 13 years of teaching, she said her students are the reason she returns each academic year.

"You can see how fun they are, this is where I have all the fun," Wayne said in her classroom. She also believes teachers have to be parents to their students.

"Some don't have moms, or dads. They see us more. We need to be a parent figure to them," Wayne said. "You do need to be stern with them but at the same time you have to love them."

Principal Larry Wallen said Vice Principal David Holly nominated Wayne because of her leadership in the school and her strong ties with students. He said during a staff meeting, the faculty was discussing classroom instruction with the program "Homebase."

"She stood up and said it was about the students. This is what the program is about, getting invested in our kids, not getting involved with grades," Wallen said. "And I thought that was such a beautiful vision."

"If it has anything to do with students," Wayne said, "I'm the first one to defend them, because they're my kids, they're my students, they're my friends and my relatives."

Wayne developed the reading and writing curriculum for Kayenta Middle School. Wallen said this was key especially since the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards went into effect.

Wallen said AIMS test scores for Kayenta students showed 40 percent were meeting the standards, which does not make him happy.

"We want 100 percent because we don't want any of our Navajo kids left behind," Wallen said.

He said Navajo students typically have a hard time taking standardized tests and this accounts for the unsatisfactory scores.

"The test is looking for differences, while Navajo students look for similarities they can relate to," Wallen said. "Testing is based on discrimination and not on holistic parts."

He said his staff is under a lot of pressure to meet the standards and teachers like Wayne will be the key to meeting those goals.

Wayne said she, too, worries about student success.

"It feels really good when I see them at our promotion ceremony knowing that I've taught them to be ready," she said. "It scares me if they're not ready."

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