TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Before students return to southern Arizona's largest school district, teachers are preparing their classrooms in the Tucson Unified School District.
The first day for students is August 2, 2019. The date is already set in Felicite Joe's classroom at Johnson Primary School.
She's one of more than 180 new teachers to the district. Joe just completed the Indigenous Teacher Education Project at the University of Arizona. She planned to take the lessons learned over the last two years back to the Navajo Nation, but then she chose to stay in Tucson instead.
"It is universal to all people," she said. "There are lessons that anybody can relate to and anybody can apply and learn too."
Her classroom has books, art and all sorts of references to indigenous culture. Joe said her room's not finished though, because she wants to add success stories of indigenous people in western culture.
"I wanted to have it very apparent to be...a model for my students," said Joe. "To be...true to my own identity, my cultural identity, and bring those aspects here to Tucson."
Joe believes most of her 13-person ITEP class returned home after graduation. Now that her daughter is enrolled in the project, Joe intends to stick around Tucson even longer.
"It's getting hard to leave," she said with a smile. "I initially came here thinking two years and I'm going to go home and now it's turning into 'I don't know how many more years'."
Along with the support of her fellow teachers, Joe said she feels like TUSD has her back. The district sets up new teachers in a mentor program for their first two years.
This is the first year for third-grade students at Johnson Primary School. Joe said she's anxious because it's when testing starts, but she's excited to be a sort-of pioneer for the school.
“Definitely hopeful for the rest of the semester...well, the rest of the year,” said Joe.