Native Americans focus of new program at USD School of Ed

Native Americans focus of new program at USD School of Ed A new program at The University of South Dakota will focus on the educational needs of Native American children in South Dakota.

In an effort to promote increased understanding, The University of South Dakota and South Dakota State University have collaborated with Todd County Schools on the Rosebud Indian Reservation to increase beginning teachers' understanding of Native American people. This collaborative effort began this semester with Mark Jakopak, a School of Education teacher education student who is student teaching on the Rosebud Indian Reservation.�

Jakopak's placement on the reservation stems from the service of SDSU Professor Emeritus Lowell Amiotte on both Gov. Mike Rounds' Subcommittee on Indian Education and USD/SDSU Joint Dean of Education Hank Rubin's Joint Council for the Enhancement of Indian Education. Amiotte made the connection with Todd County superintendent Richard Bordeaux as a result of the shared interests of both these committees.

Before this collaboration, placement of student teachers on the Rosebud Reservation was impractical because of issues such as supervision, housing, and traveling expenses. The Todd County Schools have helped to overcome these obstacles by providing both room and board to the student teachers. To continue promoting increased understanding of Native American children, Rubin hopes to build the program to send four student teachers to the reservation every semester � ideally, two from The University of South Dakota and two from South Dakota State University.�

Dr. Kristine Reed, assistant professor in the School of Education at USD and a member of the governor's subcommittee, said Jakopak himself was the catalyst that motivated her to pursue the initiative.

"Mark was excited about this experience since day one," Reed said.�"He approached me about student teaching on the reservation with so much enthusiasm that I could not help but want to help make it happen."

Jakopak's hopes remain high for the experience. Diversity is what initially drew him to The University of South Dakota, and visiting the Rosebud Indian Reservation last year convinced him to pursue the student teaching opportunity.

"Inside of me I have always felt a push to keep moving, enough to travel to the four borders of this country and in between. No matter where I went, every place would always push me to keep moving," Jakopak said. "When I visited the reservation last year, for the first time in my life I did not feel pushed to leave. It is my belief that working on the reservation, I will grow into a useful teacher."

If all goes well, more student teachers will follow in Jakopak's footsteps in the Todd County School District. For now, however, Jakopak is testing the ropes himself and providing an example for future student teachers from across South Dakota.

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