10/26/2021 • Santa Fe, NM • Indigenous Montessori educator calls for culturally sustaining education
10/26/2021 • Santa Fe, NM • As reported in Source NM earlier this month, Tracey Cordero, the director at the Keres Children’s Learning Center (KCLC) spoke to the Legislative Education Study Committee about the culturally sustaining education taking place at the Montessori-based Indigenous Education center she leads in Cochiti Pueblo.
Public education in New Mexico has been impacted in recent years by the 2018 “Yazzie-Martinez” District Court decision, which found that “New Mexico’s public education system violates the education clause of the New Mexico Constitution,” specifically with respect to “children who come from economically disadvantaged homes, children who are English Language Learners, children who are Native American, and children with a disability.”
In particular, the Court called for “equitable and culturally relevant learning environments, educational opportunities and culturally relevant instructional materials for Native American students enrolled in public schools,” and for the system to “ensure maintenance of native languages.”
Cordero highlighted the distinction between “culturally relevant” and “culturally sustaining”:
“The harm that this country has caused our tribal nations were well beyond culturally relevant. It is absolutely time to do culturally sustaining learning and teaching,” Cordero said. “Not just relevance anymore, sustaining.”
Keres Children’s Learning Center is already a model for these practices, where learning is “rooted in community leadership and teaching the cultural traditional values of Cochiti Pueblo,” and classes are dual language or Keres-immersive.
From the article:
Cordero asked lawmakers to provide support for programs that could not only build their model in other tribal communities, but allow for their efforts to continue with students as they enter middle and high school. They also seek a change in standards set by the Early Childhood Education and Care Department that would allow tribes to access state funding. Programs like the Keres Children’s Learning Center that create their own criteria and standards are missing out on money because they don’t 100% align with the requirements to receive state or federal dollars.
“Because the system that exists currently doesn’t make space for culturally relevant learning for culturally sustaining pedagogy, the way we deserve to have it. We had to do it ourselves,” she said.