Michaela Brady, BFA Art Education
Student at VCU: 2006-2010
Ya’a t’eeh! Greetings from the “rez!”
In order to picture the town of Many Farms Arizona, one must simply think of an area completely opposite of the city of Richmond. We have exactly one intersection, two gas stations, one post office, and a Navajo Chapter House. The only traffic is when a herd of wild horses or sheep tries to cross the street, and the nearest Wal*Mart is two hours away. If you spin in a 360 degree circle, all you see are hoguns, tumble weeds, dirt, and a giant red mesa lining the valley as far as the eye can see.
As for the students of Many Farms Boarding High School, they are like any other typical American teenager. They are required to take biology and algebra. They attend football games on Friday nights, and love having a good time with their peers. However, unlike most schools in the United States, because the school is operated by the Bureau of Indian Education and is located in the heart of Navajo (Dine) Nation, there are many curriculum differences as well. Instead of French, Spanish, and German, students take Navajo I and II, and instead of having a variety of American history or European history classes, students are required to take a semester of Native Culture and a semester of Native Government. Because of the desire to continue “native” education, I not only teach Art Fundamentals, but Native American Art as well. Even though there are many opportunities here, many difficulties plague the “rez” schools as well. For one, parent involvement is very low due to extreme poverty, technology is practically non-existent in the classroom, and art in many schools is only offered once in the student’s entire school career because of low funding. Many of the teachers teaching for the BIE have been teaching for many years, and there is a strong desire to bring in young teachers with fresh ideas.
But, regardless of any difficulties, I am having the time of my life and teaching some of the most talented students I have ever met! One particularly exciting thing about many of my students is that they come from families where in every generation there is an artist of some sort, whether they are a potter, jewelry maker, weaver, etc. My students are currently working on an environment themed project, where they are reducing, reusing, and recycling, by making found object sculptures of indigenous plants and animals to northern Arizona. They are doing an AMAZING job, and are finally pushing themselves to try something new and create something unique.
I encourage anyone who would be interested in teaching with the Bureau of Indian Education to apply immediately. We are in need of excellent teachers in all subjects, and the experience is worth it. When I am not teaching, I am hiking in the local Canyon de Chelly, reliving the old westerns at Monument Valley, or enjoying a night out in the nearby mountain towns like Flagstaff, AZ or Cortez, CO. When I am at home, I hang out with the dormitory students watching movies or playing basketball and hanging out with my rez cat Edvard Munch.
If you or anyone you know would be interested in a reservation teaching position, feel free to e-mail or call me!