Faces of 501: Yale Taylor

Yale Taylor is in his fifth year working for Topeka Public Schools. For the past four years, he has been a math teacher at Jardine Middle School and is now a math interventionist and a Comprehensive, Integrated, Three-Tiered (Ci3T) trainer. During the summer Taylor, who is a member of the Choctaw Nation, is a camp counselor for the TPS Indian Education Summer School. The camp is for eligible Native American students that have completed kindergarten through seventh grade.

As a classroom teacher my day had more structure and was very organized. Lessons and activities were broken down into blocks of time and I repeated these same lessons and activities for each class. As a math interventionist, I visit multiple grade levels, sixth through eighth grade, in a typical day. The educational needs of each student vary depending on the class. A thirty-minute activity is normally planned, but can be adjusted to accommodate each student. It makes each day exciting and keeps me mindful on how I can improve my classroom strategies.

“I really miss the “aha” moments in the classroom. Observing student perseverance in the classroom, while facilitating student success is really a highlight of this profession. With my new positions I know I am still involved in that experience.”

“During the summer I work with the Indian Education Summer School. My job is to celebrate the Indigenous culture by facilitating opportunities for our Indigenous students. This includes creating regalia, demonstrating customs and sharing tribal culture of our Indigenous students within the district. During camp, we take field trips, work on projects and communicate with members of our community to promote a more traditional way of living. For some of our students this is a new experience for them to be immersed in their tribal heritage, while for others, it may be an extension of how they live their life at home. This opportunity is new for me. When I was a student, my district only offered two types of summer programs. You were either in a program for grade improvement or you could be involved in a more sports related program. Both I feel are appropriate, however it is nice that there are opportunities for our Indigenous students to be in a positive environment, while allowing them to learn and grow.”

“The camp allows traditions of multiple tribes to be shared with the youth of Topeka Public Schools. The immersion of the Anishanaabe language is a fairly new addition, while students are availed in the opportunity to try Indigenous foods and customs, and participate in opening ceremonies. Students learn about various tribal origin and creation stories, while learning skills such as traditional beadwork. One thing that has stuck out to me about this camp is that our Indigenous students appear to be very proud of their ancestry and are eager to learn more. Every student brings a unique quality to the camp, and they are excited to share their own tribal traditions with other students.

“I hope all of our students know that their teachers are invested in them. So be yourself and always perform the best that you can.”

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