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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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Rez math teacher inspires students

by S.J. Wilson - The Navajo-Hopi Observer

Math KidsTUBA CITY — Tuba City Boarding School math teacher Raquel Dale believes her students deserve a smooth transition from eighth to ninth grade and has designed a successful algebra program to reach that end. Her method is simple in some ways. Basically, Dale's lesson plan is consistent with the curriculum and testing of both Tuba City High School and Greyhills Academy High School.

Dale's program is paying off. On Dec. 18, 26 TCBS students took the final exam facing high school Algebra I students. According to Dale, all did extremely well.

"The majority of my algebra students scored exceptionally compared to the high school students who took the Algebra exam. Only four of my students received a 50 percent or lower," Dale said. "These results show that the TCBS students are learning what the high school is teaching."

The test was modified to reflect the fact that high school courses are taught in blocks, meaning that some subjects, such as Algebra I, are completed in one semester. The TCBS students, mid-year, were not as far along in the coursework, so to make the test equivalent to what had been taught so far, Dale eliminated questions from the high school test that had yet to be taught.
"This revealed a consistency about their Algebra curriculum and is aligned with Greyhills Academy High School curriculum," Dale said.

The students will face another final exam at the end of the school year.

Agnes Wu, who chairs the Greyhills Academy High School Math Department, remembers Dale's students from the year before, who took the High School Algebra I final exam at the end of the spring semester 2003. "Most of the students—like 20 out of 22—passed that exam," Wu said. "There was an agreement that those students who passed would be given credit for the exam and could skip Algebra I. She has done a wonderful job." Wu said that Dale had taught at Greyhills Academy several years earlier and would be welcome back. "I would honestly like to get her to teach here again," Wu laughed.

When asked if she found the performance results of these outstanding junior high math students surprising considering statewide AIMS (Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards) math scores, Wu responded that she did not. "I really believe that Native American students are excellent learners," Wu said. "Many teachers from outside [the reservation] community settings are used to a different learning style and expect our students to conform to their own style. This causes teachers to become very frustrated. In response, the students are equally frustrated."

Where teachers are willing to adopt the learning style of Native students, learning is very successful, Wu added.

Dale's students have exceeded junior high algebra standards under her tutelage and talked about their high expectations for the future due to the added confidence the algebra program has given them.

Leon Begay,13, said he would like to become an environmental engineer after college.

"I feel good because I am doing the highest level of math in the school," he said. "I like math more because I meet challenges and can accomplish them."

Although basketball and reading take up time for Chantel Tso,13, she said she likes that she is in advanced classes and plans to work as a nurse's assistant in the future. "I feel that with me taking this class, everything in high school will be easier," she said.

Math is the favorite subject of Samantha Yazzie, who also enjoys running and listening to music. She looks to the Navy for a career, or perhaps college.

Ryne Hemstreet,13, said he enjoys technology and physical education, and would like to play college baseball, while classmate Cody Slim,13, would like to be either a veterinarian or an iron worker.

Slim said that his accomplishment in math "makes me feel good because I know it is a challenge for me and that I can accomplish it."

He said Dale's algebra class has changed the way he looks at math because he and his classmates are learning more than they need to know at their current grade level.

"Don't let anything get in your way to accomplish your goals in life," Slim advised.

Charmayne Hemstreed, 14, said, "I never felt so proud of myself, because I never thought I would be in this high school class, but I am—and my grades are looking good so far."

Hemstreet spoke to future TCBS algebra class students, saying that she hopes they like it because it is "one opportunity you can learn from and you can accomplish anything you want in life."

High school math isn't hard for Sean Tee,13, but it isn't easy either. His love of math hasn't changed, he said, because he has liked it all the way back from first grade on.

Alaina Begaye, 13, names her algebra class as the thing she likes most about school, and though she has yet to make plans for her future, she feels good about herself. "I feel good because my mom said she never got to do algebra until the 11th grade, " she said.

Math, technology, social studies and science are the favorites of Boyd Begay,13. "After I leave high school, I plan to go to a good university like Harvard. I would like to be a lawyer," Begay said.

Other students look to future careers such as Anjelita Velasco, 13, who would like to be a transplant surgeon. Tara Crank, 13, is considering computer animation. Tasha Howard, 13, looks towards a welding career. Laralyn Sloan, 14, may someday teach algebra herself.

Carl Cortez, Latisha Yazzie, Ryan Silas, Rhoda Black, Dominick Manygoats, Vera Arlinda June, Tyrone Yazzie and Kiki Begay joined their classmates in expressing their appreciation of Dale and her algebra class. Their career goals include marine biology, mechanical engineering, professional football and more.

"In sixth grade I hated math," Tyrone Yazzie said. That, he admits, has changed, and along with science and social studies, algebra is his favorite subject.

Lee Ann Dajolie,14, is a former student of TCBS, and according to Dale, was one of her most promising students.
"She has a natural math ability. I merely picked up on it and strengthened her ability. She knew a lot already; together we took it to the next level," Dale said."

Dejolie had high praise for her former teacher. "It is fun and exciting to come every day and learn something new," she said. "I feel that I have accomplished much in my last year at TCBS with my teacher, Ms. Raquel Dale.

"She taught me a lot that will help me throughout my high school career. My perspective on math has changed greatly because of what I learned last year."

The students have also had the experience of critical thinking and compared the final exams of both Greyhills Academy and Tuba City High School.

"In comparing the exams to each other, the kids were more comfortable with Greyhills Academy High School ['s instrument] because of its organization and clarity in math questions," Dale said.

She said that she and her students look forward to taking the final exams in May at both schools.

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