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Grand View School Gets Grant For Cherokee Language
by Stacie Guthrie - Reporter Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee Nation citizen Sara Downey, who teaches at Grand View School, helps students with their Cherokee syllabary by using blocks during an after school class at the school in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. (photo by Stacie Guthrie - Cherokee Phoenix)

TAHLEQUAH, OK – Grand View School is teaching students about the Cherokee history, culture and language thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

The school is one out of 10 to receive the grant that supports Native American and Alaska Native children who are English-learning students, according to a DOE statement.

Cherokee Nation citizen Darlene Littledeer, a third grade teacher at Grand View School, prepares students at the school in Tahlequah, Oklahoma for the Cherokee Language Bowl. (photo by Stacie Guthrie - Cherokee Phoenix)

Margaret Carlile, Grand View federal programs director and Cherokee Nation citizen, said the school received the grant on Oct. 1 and that it would span across five years and total $1.5 million.

"We're partnering with the Cherokee Nation to provide academic assistance to children who are from Native American families with their language skills. We're trying to make sure that all students perform well academically. In addition to that a major component of our grant that I'm so excited about is that we will be teaching Cherokee here at the school again," she said.

Carlile said the Grand View instructors who teach the Cherokee language are Darlene Littledeer, a certified English as a Second Language instructor, and Sara Downey, who works with students singing in Cherokee.

Carlile said she is also "excited" that the CN has received a grant to develop Cherokee language curriculum for language programs because the school has worked with people who have done these types of language programs in the past.

From left, Cherokee Nation citizen Amara Richardson and Kayla Richmond study the Cherokee syllabary after school at Grand View School in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. (photo by Stacie Guthrie - Cherokee Phoenix)

"And we've worked with other people in the area in the past who have taught language at the schools, and so we're trying to borrow from some of the immersion procedures and some of where it's a blended classroom because we know that our students need to succeed in English also," she said. "We want our students to be good academically no matter what language they choose to speak."

Carlile said the DOE grant focuses on students in pre-kindergarten to fourth grade and that although the grant is only for five years it should "make a difference."

"Most research shows that it takes five years to make a significant change in education. So being able to do this and staying on track for five years gives us a great opportunity to make a difference here in the community," she said.

Carlile added that she hopes to get students active in different Cherokee language activities.

"We're so excited because we hope to have more than one team ready to go in the (Cherokee) Language Bowl. Kids are practicing, they're working on their cultural information, their historical information, their pronunciations and we hope to be able to enter them into a number of events throughout the year," she said. "(At) Grand View School more than half of our enrollment is of Indian heritage, primarily Cherokee, so we think that's a significant thing that this school's going to be active in all of those."

Carlile said the CN has helped with the school's willingness to educate students in the language.

"They've done some translations and already provided some materials in support, and we appreciate that they are reaching out to the schools," she said. "We really need their help because without that there's a lot of things the schools are cutting back on and doing away with, but thanks to the support of the Nation we're able to continue some things for our students."

Carlile said if anyone has information to help the school find resources to call 918-456-5131. "We're kind of looking around for people that may know of resources that we can use here at the school. They might contact the school and let us know if they have some resources or some other skills that we might be able to use to ensure that our students get a lot of opportunities."

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