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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Teacher Connects New Generation with Cherokee Culture
by Cherokee Phoenix Staff
BELL, Okla. – A retired teacher from Maryetta Public Schools is using her knowledge, old and new, to teach children about Cherokee heritage.

Susie Thompson, a Cherokee Nation citizen, said when she speaks Cherokee it takes her back in time, creating a connection to her mother and grandmother.

Thompson, a Cherokee speaker until age 8, said she was inspired to volunteer after completing the tribe’s Teacher Enrichment Institute. The TEI prepares staff, teachers and other citizens to teach the Cherokee language, history and culture.

After the course ended Thompson said she wanted to learn more.

“I learn best by teaching and love learning,” said Thompson. “The new information I was learning through the Cherokee teacher enrichment program was something that I wanted to share with others. I knew there were many Cherokee speakers here in Bell, and I asked Mr. (Tony) Davidson, the principal, if he would allow me to come down here and teach Cherokee history, language and culture.”

Thompson volunteers two days a week teaching Cherokee lessons that align with the class curriculum. She tells stories such as “The Origin of the Strawberry” to fifth and sixth-graders. Words such as man, creator, huckleberry, peach and strawberry are written on banners that display the English word, the Cherokee word and the pronunciation in Cherokee.

“In the process, the children have learned things about Cherokee history, language and culture that they didn’t know before and I have learned things better,” said Thompson. “They responded in a really good way.”

The TEI is a free program that provides participants with Cherokee knowledge, teaching skills, lesson planning, classroom management, curriculum development and class assessments. The tribe’s Co-Partner Program, a federally funded program designed to provide educational opportunities to Cherokee children that would otherwise not be offered in the public school system, administers it.

Thompson said after taking the course she realizes the importance of preserving Cherokee culture.

“I thought about all of the thoughts, all of the history, all of the culture and the meaning of Cherokee words that cannot be translated into the English language and I realized as much as possible the Cherokee language needs to be preserved,” she said.

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