Wisconsin First Nations | Exemplar Profile: Lori Mueller
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Wisconsin First Nations | Exemplar Profile: Lori Mueller


[flute playing] – My name is Lori Mueller. We are at Bowler
Elementary School. I am a third and fourth
grade science and social studies
and health teacher. I was drawn to this
school to student teach in the first place because
of the diversity here. When I went to elementary school and even high school in
Milwaukee, I did not know
there were Native people. I thought they were gone with the cowboys
and Indians movies. I was never told about
them and, you know, I hope that has changed
since I was a student. But from the time I
came to the school, I knew that Mohicans
and Native Americans comprised about 50% of the
people in the school district. So, I was very interested in
that, it was enlightening. Oh, there they are. They never left. And every time I would
ask someone in the tribal community to help me
with a project or, you know, give me some
assistance, background, resources, when I
would ask for something it would be received like
they were getting a gift. I was always welcomed,
every single time. When I’ve had Elders
come in, and they tell the teaching stories
and all the students, Native and the non-Native
students, really connect with that. It’s a powerful teaching tool. But I noticed they
pay attention better and I think they
remember better. They’re each given
a question that they may ask our Elder visitor. They are responsible for
notating their response. They use those notes
and they summarize and reflect on the
visit of the Elder. What did they learn, what was
interesting, what stood out? I had one student
then write an article. It kind of gives the kids
a structure because at this age level, they need
some structure like that. I don’t think it would
necessarily be a big deal if they were older, middle
school or high school, but I think the litter
kids, third, fourth graders, respond to that a little better. It’s nice, they have everything
ready in front of them and they know exactly
what they have to do. – Can you tell us something
you are thankful for? – [Elder] Thankful?
– Yeah. – First, number one,
is probably my family. – You know, I try to put
myself in the position of other teachers across the
other parts of the state. They don’t have that
immediate access and I would encourage those
teachers to reach out. Just because you’re miles
apart doesn’t mean you can’t communicate
with all the 11 recognized tribes in Wisconsin. Write a letter to the
Council, write a letter to the President and
ask for information and they will send
it back to you. I’ve done that, and the
kids have done that, written the different
tribes in Wisconsin and always get a
great response back. We’ve had several members
of, I don’t think we’ve had all 11, but, come in
and speak to our class. And then when they
get those resources, they put together
and they make a book and do a presentation on it. We’ve done biographical
projects on Native People, where students write a
speech in the first person. It’s called our wax museum,
it’s an annual event. And they stand as a statue
in front of a big backdrop and when you walk up to them,
they will come to life and give a little
speech that they wrote in the first person
and then step back. And it is a community
event when we do that. So, we invite all
members of the community. You know, performing for
your family and friends, it’s so nice to see
how proud the kids are and how proud their
families are of what have you learned? You know, we have all
different levels of learners there so, besides the Native
and non-Native component, you see that has
an impact on kids who have special needs, or
gifted and talented students. Some of the non-Native
kids have asked to portray Native People that we’ve
studied and in reading. I’ve noticed more
non-Native kids choosing to read books from the Native
library that I have here, asking to take it home,
share it with their families. And you know, from a
personal standpoint, that’s where you can
really make an impact. Connecting the school and
the family and the home. For teachers that
aren’t as aware, don’t feel like they have the
resources or the knowledge, I don’t want to push, but I think
the best thing I can do is give them the resources
and take it from there, and touch base with them
and send a little reminder note out every now
and then, or an email. Here’s Act 31, here’s what it
is, here’s some resources, if you have any questions,
here’s where you can go. – Anushiik.
(We are grateful.) – I think that’s
something that should be introduced and
taught every year. Pre-K all the way up to senior. I’ve seen some things,
even in this school, that are positive. I see some things
changing, for example, I see more kids of different
cultures sitting together at lunch and playing at recess, and kinda working
things out, and I want to see that continue. And I also am keeping an
eye open for other staff, or new staff that can
carry on after I leave. I would hate to see this, you
know, kind of die with me. [flute music]

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