Deepening Connections Across Cohorts: Region 16 Native Education Certificate Program Participants Connect on Sustaining Projects

What does it mean to create a network of educational leaders dedicated to sustainable systems change? In Washington, more than 50 leaders are creating a network through cohort learning in the University of Washington’s Native Education Certificate Program. 

Leaders from both Region 16–sponsored cohorts of the Native Education Certificate Program (NECP) gathered September 21 to strengthen a statewide network of leaders sustaining supports for Native education.

Attendees at the September 21 gathering represented seven of Washington’s nine educational service districts (ESDs), the Association of Educational Service Districts, and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Participants from our first cohort (2020–22) shared how their roles and agencies had been shaped by the NECP culminating project.

“Start somewhere, and do it in a way that reflects Indigenous ways of knowing and collective work,” said Karina Vanderbilt, director of Multilingual Services at ESD 121. “At our ESD, we’re really just getting started. As Cohort 2 continues, our project will continue to build as we collectively grow our understanding as an agency.”

More than a year after the completion of the first cohort, leaders continue to sustain initiatives from the Olympic Peninsula to the Yakima Valley. Attendees heard from Andrew Eyres, Beth Geiger, Jessica Vavrus, Karina Vanderbilt, Shannon Torres, and Vickei Hrdina:

  • In ESD 105, Wapato Public Schools Executive Director of Teaching and Learning Shannon Torres continues to support pathways to earning the Seal of Biliteracy at Wapato High School. Language teaching of Ichishkíin, an Indigenous language spoken by the Yakama Nation, has now expanded to serve elementary-age students.
  • At ESD 112, Director of Career Readiness & STEM Initiatives Vickei Hrdina launched the ESD 112 Regional Native Parent and Community Advisory. An advisory of 15 parents and community members established reinvigorating Title VI as a top priority. With support from ESD 112, four districts have since submitted Title VI grants to meet the cultural, language, and educational needs of Native students.
  • In Capital Region ESD 113, Associate Superintendent Andrew Eyres continues to collaborate with Wa He Lut Indian School instructor Misty Kalama-Archer to create pathways for students to obtain credit and the Seal of Biliteracy for Indigenous languages at comprehensive high schools.
  • In a collaboration between Olympic ESD 114, the Association of Educational Service Districts and Region 16 Comprehensive Center, Susan Lathrop, Jessica Vavrus, and Beth Geiger created a toolkit of Native education resources for non-Native educational leaders. They continue to update the toolkit periodically with new resources to support ongoing learning.
  • At Puget Sound ESD 121, Karina Vanderbilt, Julie Rolling, and Jason LaFontaine are growing the Puget Sound ESD Indigenous Collective, where leaders from across the agency connect to understand and improve how programs support Native students, families, and communities.

Members of the second cohort may choose to sustain and grow Cohort 1 projects to satisfy program requirements. As Region 16 sustains our support for this program in the final year of our grant cycle, deepening the relationship and partnership between our two cohorts remains a key objective.

“This experience is about learning, but with learning comes really deep listening and respect,” Andrew Eyres said. “The learning in this program and the relationships out of this program have been extremely beneficial, both personally and professionally.”


Published September 27, 2023

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