Lingítin the Classroom

A Juneau School District Lingít language and culture program that began in 2000 is expanding. Through a Sealaska Heritage Institute grant and support from the school district, the program recently hired its first permanent principal and is now available to middle school students.

In May, the school district hired Eldri Waid Westmoreland as the program’s new principal. Westmoreland, who is Lingít, taught at the preschool, elementary, and middle school levels over three decades. She also owns Math Raven, an Indigenous education, research, and curriculum firm.

Molly Box, who served as interim principal for the program for several years, describes it as an elective curriculum that is place-based and uses oral narrative themes and stories often connected to seasonal harvest activities.

“It’s very connected to the land and the Lingít culture,” says Box.

In addition to hiring Westmoreland, the Sealaska grant will bring in new teachers, additional help from Lingít elders, and expansion into sixth and seventh grades. Previously, the program was only available to kindergarten through fifth grade students.

The program began in 2000 with just one kindergarten class, says Box. She credits its growth over time to support from the school board, school district, the community, and several local Alaska Native organizations. Box describes the program’s students as close-knit and supportive.

The program currently serves approximately 70 students and is expected to grow to 90 in the coming years. Box says the new grant will also support creation of a 50-hour course for parents to further involve them in their children’s learning.


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