Summer School, Fun for Choctaw Language Teachers
Learning never stops at the Chahta Anumpa Aiikhvna, School of Choctaw Language. This summer, no less than 10 Choctaw language instructors are back in the classroom. They are continuing their studies and building their skills to speak more fluently and. Therefore, better teach and inspire their students.
For two weeks the Immersion Class is meeting all day, four days a week, in the Language Building in Durant. The past meets the future, as ancient Chahta words ring out across the heart of the Choctaw Nation’s Enterprise Road development.
“When we started this program in 2002 there were only three teachers on staff,” said Teresa Billy, Assistant Director of the School of Choctaw Language. “Today we have a staff of 28, including 19 teachers, and 11 of those are fluent speakers.”
The Executive Education Director of School Programs is Jim Parrish.
There are no required classes or numbers of hours that the instructors have to reach each year. But they know they must maintain a level of speaking Choctaw to do the job.
There are two community and eight staff teachers enrolled in this summer’s Immersion Class. Curtis Billy, who teaches Choctaw III and IV at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, is the Immersion course instructor, but the dynamics of the class involve input from all around the table. They do a great deal of talking to each other – in Choctaw. A mistake or a question throws the discussion back to English. Then conversation in Choctaw resumes, and it is lively. There are plenty of smiles and encouragement around the table.
Call it Advanced Conversations in Choctaw or Continual Language Acquisition Training – but it’s clearly a learning experience that’s fun.
Teachers on staff are required to have college degrees, as they work with students in public schools and universities.
“We comply with the standards of the state school system,” Billy said.
Choctaw, which in addition to the language, includes lessons in history and tribal culture, reaches approximately 14 Head Start programs, 32 high schools and four institutions of higher education within the Choctaw Nation. It is all taught online, except at SEOSU, which puts an instructor in the classroom.
The staff teachers instruct up to 500 public school students from Atoka to Wright City on a daily basis during the school term. The courses carry a foreign language credit that can count toward graduation.
“A teacher may have two or three schools online at once,” Billy said, adding, “It’s virtual, but it’s also interactive, so teacher and student can converse back-and-forth.”
Community teachers work mostly through the Choctaw Community Centers. They may or may not have college degrees, but they are certified, speakers.
“They have students of all ages,” Billy said.
The program has built up to currently having 35 community teachers on contract. The newest crop of teachers ranges in age from 29 to 40. Billy said she is happy to have so many younger participants. She is equally happy about something else.
“We are producing good speakers,” she said.
To reach the Chahta Anumpa Aiikhvna, School of Choctaw Language, call toll free 800-522-6170 or 580-924-8280, Extensions 2250 or 2102; or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Classes also are available online to the public, free of charge, at www.choctawschool.com.