Skip to main content

'Business as Usual' for Haskell Award Winner

LAWRENCE, Kan. - Although Haskell teacher education senior, Lydia Roach had
written the essay for the American Indian Higher Education Consortium
(AIHEC) student of the year competition, the call she got on her birthday
was completely unexpected. She had been named AIHEC's student of the year
from Haskell. Roach, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, had never
really thought about her accomplishments. The job she was doing at school
and as a student teacher were just business as usual. But to the committee
at Haskell that nominated her and to the officials at AIHEC, Roach's
dedication and outlook on education were much more than "business as
usual."

Roach's parents were teachers and she grew up around education, but it was
when she took time off to raise her niece that she realized she wanted to
work with young children in the classroom. Once that decision was made,
Roach headed for Haskell Indian Nations University's Teacher Education
Program and threw herself into preparing to educate young children.

Roach had received her associate's degree in Liberal Arts from the college
in 1997 and her previous positive experience with the school is what
brought her back.

"I knew what I wanted to do and that was to work with young children,"
Roach remembered. "I knew that the program at Haskell was unique in its
methods and I liked the fact that I was being taught by Native teachers."

As she completes her last semester in the program, Roach is full of
confidence and anxious to have her own classroom, but admits she will miss
working with the woman she has been a student teacher for this past year,
Val Howland.

Howland, a teacher at the Broken Arrow Elementary School will miss her too.
"I've been very, very proud of her," Howland said. "It has been a wonderful
experience for me to watch her grow in confidence in the classroom."

Scroll to Continue

Read More

With over 20 years in the classroom, Howland is pleased to see women of
color teaching children. "When I was growing up and in school, we saw women
of color in positions as laborers," Howland said. "I always remember that
the first time I saw a woman of color in a leadership position it made me
realize that I could be more than I had expected of myself. One of the
things I see from the Haskell students is the broad spectrum of knowledge
they have before they get into the classroom. Lydia had so much more time
in the classroom before she started teaching that it really makes a
difference. She spent her observation time with me last year and so when
she started this year it was an added bonus. We already had relationship
established and a rapport. I really feel the extra hours and interaction
they have with the children really gives them an edge."

Although Howland and Roach are teaching Kindergarteners, they have
explained to the children that man years ago they couldn't have taught
children of one race or another because of segregation. After explaining
Brown v. Board of Education, the young students were aghast at the "old"
way of doing things.

What has tickled both Howland and Roach has been that after teaching
students about Native American history, they asked the students how many of
them were Indians. "The whole class stood up and raised their hands,"
Howland laughed. "All of them said they knew they had to be."

While Roach completes the last few weeks of her student teaching stint she
looks back on the past year fondly. "I was looking back and thought I'm not
going to be in the classroom here anymore or at Haskell and I thought, how
sad," Roach said. "But so many other things are going on that are good,
some things are ending, but other things are just beginning. I can't wait
to have my own classroom."

The award from AIHEC was just icing on the cake for Roach, but the fact her
mother was able to be there to see her presented with the award is
something she will never forget. "I couldn't believe she was able to get
off during the school year and fly to see me get the award," she said
smiling. "That and seeing other relatives there made it even more special."

Now that the initial surprise of winning the award has worn off, Roach said
she began looking at the work she has done and although she is amazed at
what she has done, really doesn't think it was out of the ordinary for her.

"I had wonderful teachers and they have given me so much," Roach concluded.
"With us getting all this knowledge at Haskell, we go back home and now
everyone is asking questions and wanting to learn more. I am doing what I
love so I guess I don't realize how well I am doing ... it is in my nature
to do the best in everything that I do and exceed. I think that is just
something from my parents and something within my personality. If I can't
do my best why do it?"