Community , Culture , Education

Kindergarten and First-grade teachers needed for Osage Language Immersion School

The Osage Language Immersion School has two positions open for a Kindergarten teacher and a First-grade teacher, both require a bachelor’s degree in Education. Both positions will pay more than the average teacher pay in Oklahoma.

According to the Oklahoma Education Association, Oklahoma ranks 49th in the country for average teacher pay. The average teacher pay is $44,398, and only eight districts in the state average greater than $50,000 per year – most of those salaries require advanced degrees. The Osage Immersion School will pay their Kindergarten teacher and First-grade teacher a salary of $52,000 a year, plus benefits.

Outgoing Immersion Kindergarten teacher, Piper Long, said learning the Osage language for her job was not hard. Her last day was May 16.

“While I personally enjoyed learning and speaking the Osage language, I enjoyed hearing the students speak the Osage language even more,” she said. “Listening to the students pray in the Osage language before each meal was truly heartwarming.”

While teaching at the school she became close to her four students. They went on many field trips together, achieved milestones and she watched as they learned how to sound out the Osage orthography and write it. She said the students are also proficient in their math skills, reading, recognizing their sight words, counting money, telling time and are overall are very bright and well mannered.

She said she is leaving her post because she is furthering her education to become a doctor of osteopathic medicine and hopes to give back to her Osage community by working at the Wah-Zha-Zhi Health Clinic.

“I began teaching at the Immersion school with no knowledge of the Osage language and an inadequate understanding of my own personal heritage. The Immersion administration, faculty, students, language teachers, and program volunteers were all so supportive that I was able to learn the language very quickly,” she said. “The Osage culture was taught through the language which was integrated throughout the day. Having spent eight months learning and teaching the Osage culture and language, I now feel a responsibility to reach out across borders to strengthen our community.

“The students attending the immersion school today may experience similar feelings as their future career paths diverge. While the school has its share of challenges, I believe the program can be a powerful tool for cultivating a strong sense of culture, language fluency, and academic success,” she said.

Students and staff

Currently, there are a total of 30 students in the Immersion School. Headmaster of the school, David Webb, said there is a waiting list for infants and toddlers. There are openings for the 3-year-old to 4-year-old classroom, the Kindergarten classroom and the First-grade classroom. Each classroom he prefers to limit to 10 students, to keep the student-to-teacher ratio down. This enables the teachers to spend more personal time with each student to ensure success.

“We create the Osage orthography curriculum, teach the curriculum, take that knowledge and take it out to the community and share it,” Webb said. “We introduce Osage constituents to the language and that way we’re doing our part to bring the language back to the school and the community.”

Webb said the Immersion school follows Oklahoma academic standardsand in his opinion, exceeds them. Their curriculum builds from year to year and has continuity, he said. The Immersion school has state of the art classrooms, they provide students with free meals, a loving and friendly environment, an Osage cultural environment and they are moving toward accreditation, which can take anywhere from three to five years.

They are currently preparing for the summer months and teaching the students words and phrases associated with the June In-Lon-Schka dances. Next weekend the children and their families will go on a camping trip to Grayhorse where the children will learn about the history of the Osage people, do arts and crafts, have time for cultural storytelling around the fire and other activities. He said the parents and students are excited.

“The Montessori teaching method aligns well with the indigenous school setting, and that came from other Immersion school teachers and administrators we’ve had trainings with in New Mexico,” Webb said. “Unlike public school, where there is a regimented schedule, our students are integrated more into the curriculum and there are a lot of hands-on activities.”

In the fall Tzi-Zho Session, he will be asking the Fifth Osage Nation Congress for funding to send two teachers, all-expense paid, to Dallas for nine months to receive their Montessori certifications. The teachers will then be required to work for the Nation for four years afterward as the Immersion School’s lead teachers.

There is interest growing in the community to enroll their children at the school and Webb said everything is coming together.

“Once we have a First grade and Kindergarten teacher, we’ll be set.”

Kilan Jacobs, Osage and ON Historic Preservation Office employee, has four children who attend the Immersion school and his daughter Luna will be entering the First grade.

I am pleased so far with the education my children have received. My children have definitely had more individual time than at a public school and my oldest daughter reads and writes well, which is all very important to me,” he said. “The most beneficial aspect for our family has been that our children are with people we feel we can trust and want to guide my children toward the ability to speak Osage and keep our culture in high regard.”

For more information about applying for the teaching posts, please call Headmaster David Webb at (918) 287-3354 or apply online at: