SUNY Potsdam students learn valuable lessons at Akwesasne Conference


Twenty-seven SUNY Potsdam education majors who will be completing field experiences and/or student teaching, as well as some who have an interest in the Salmon River Central School District (SRCSD), recently attended the “Akwesasne and New York State Teaching and Learning Standards Orientation Conference.” The mission of the event was to learn more about the special aspects of teaching in a district with such a rich Native American heritage. The conference was held at the St. Regis Mohawk School in Hogansburg. The College’s Teacher Opportunity Corps (TOC) and Teacher/Leader Quality Partnerships Program (TLQP) and the SRCSD sponsored this event.

Annemarie FitzRandolph, director of instruction in the Salmon River Central School District, welcomed the participants, outlined the conference agenda and introduced each presenter.

Conference participants were greeted with the traditional Mohawk Opening Address given by Skaniehtiiostha Montour, a Mohawk eleventh grade student. Barry Montour, director of the Akwesasne Board of Education, explained the significance of the Opening Address and provided an excellent illustrated talk on the history and government of the Mohawk nation and Akwesasne.

Stacy Adams, sub chief for the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe and SRCSD board member, and Dave White, former SRCSD home school coordinator, explained the importance of federal and state grants to the Salmon River Central School District and the value of collaborations with the tribe, community, and various educational programs at North Country colleges and universities such as those shared by SUNY Potsdam and the Mohawk community—the North Country Science and Technology Entry Program (NCSTEP) and the Potsdam Akwesasne Talent Search (PATS) program.

Sesi King, Mohawk language teacher at the St. Regis Mohawk School, led participants in an interactive and enjoyable introductory lesson on learning the Mohawk language.

Participants received handouts on the Principles of Learning and instruction on the New York State Teaching and Learning Standards during the presentation by Salmon River Central Elementary School literacy specialists, Christine McKane and Tammy Russell. These teachers also described their important support roles working with the classroom teachers.

Julie Reagan, Clinical faculty member and Professional Development liaison to the Akwesasne area schools was pleased to have the event at the St. Regis Mohawk School. “Both Salmon River Central School District and the Akwesasne Mohawk Board of Education schools provide our pre-service teachers and fellow educators with a rich and diverse multi-cultural experience. I commend these districts for their progressive stance and for providing meaningful education to children in the 21st century. They are a model for all North Country schools,” stated Reagan.

Following the conference luncheon, participants visited the St. Regis Mohawk Akwesasne Museum. Sue Herne, museum director, provided additional information about the history and culture of the St. Regis Mohawk nation through descriptions of a variety of artifacts in the museum and their relationships to specific historical records and Mohawk legends.

“Participants found the conference a valuable experience as they learned about Mohawk history and culture and the important role educators play in validating their students’ cultural heritage in the classroom and in the school district,” said Diana Fisher, director of TOC and Student Support Services at SUNY Potsdam.

The TOC grant is funded by the New York State Education Department Office of K-16 Initiatives and Access Programs Teacher Development Programs Unit and SUNY Potsdam.  TLQP is a New York State Department of Education “teacher improvement” grant program funded under No Child Left Behind (NCLB).