Four-year teaching degree unveiled


October 28, 2022

Contributed by FDLTCC

Nahin Gatica Cruz, right, and Isabella Lourey-Bowen study the principles of radiometric dating with M&Ms in their investigative science class. Cruz says he has found his passion for teaching through courses at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College and will take part in a new four-year teaching program.

Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College will soon be offering a four-year degree targeting those in pursuit of a career in elementary education. Announced this month, the move makes it the first two-year college in Minnesota approved to offer a bachelor's degree. Classes will officially begin for the first round of future educators in January.

The new program is also the first in the state accredited by education boards to incorporate Indigenous cultural values and learning approaches into the curriculum.

"We are so excited to offer this unique program at FDLTCC," said Kim Spoor, dean of education.

Compared to other states, Minnesota has struggled to hire racially and ethnically diverse teachers proportionately to the student body population. The school is optimistic about the effect its program will have on the state.

"Currently, only 1% of licensed teachers in Minnesota are American Indian, and our program will help fill this gap." Spoor said. "This was really a need expressed by local, tribal, and extended tribal communities."

Among the many future educators set to enroll in the bachelor's program next semester is Nahin Gatica Cruz, who has found his passion for teaching through courses at FDLTCC.

"Since the first day I got into this college, they have been treating me like a family," Cruz said. "Without that support from our faculty, I wouldn't be here right now."

Shortly after immigrating to the United States from Mexico, Cruz was encouraged to explore education when his English as a second language instructor noticed he had a knack for helping students with understanding the material.

When Cruz embarked on his journey to become a teacher at FDLTCC, he found the ties to Native culture in the curriculum played a major role in enhancing his education.

After completing his last semester with a 4.0 grade point average, while simultaneously balancing life as a husband and father, Cruz looks forward to earning his Anishinaabe language certificate and beginning work on the new bachelor's degree.

"We need to make sure people know about the culture and that this was the first one here," said Cruz.

Long time coming

The arrival of the new curriculum marks the end of a tumultuous effort over two decades in the making to get the four-year teaching degree off the ground.

"Arriving at the present point has been a long process of starts and stops for the college," Spoor said, adding that the mission to offer elementary education began in 2000 and involved years of collaboration with several Minnesota schools through an array of partnership grants.

The initial bachelor's program was drafted in 2019 and a finalized curriculum was submitted for approval in 2021. In August, the proposed curriculum earned the definitive approval required by the Higher Learning Commission.

Now that work on the bachelor's degree is complete, a door has been opened for the school to potentially explore and consider the implementation of additional four-year degree programs at the college in the future.

The school invites the community to learn more about the program and enjoy a feast from 10 a.m to 1 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28, in the commons area.


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