Tell us about yourself and your current role
S-ke:g Tas (Good Day), my name is Gabriella Cázares-Kelly and I am the current Pima County Recorder. I lead an office that oversees voter registration, early voting, and document recording for the county. I’m a proud, union dues paying, former #RedForEd public school educator and community organizer. I am one of four women who cofounded Indivisible Tohono, a grassroots, community organization that provides opportunities for education and civic engagement for members of her tribe, the Tohono O’odham Nation. I was inspired to run for office after encountering many systemic barriers that were preventing people from simply getting registered to vote. I am the first Native American to hold an elected Pima County office and the 3rd Native American to hold a county level office in the State of Arizona.
Who or what inspires you to work in Arizona’s education community?
Before I decided to run for office, I worked in education for more than 14 years. I had been a high school English teacher, college readiness counselor and an academic advisor in a tribal community college. The first time I realized how difficult the voter registration process was for young adults was after I agreed to host a voter registration table at the tribal college, where I worked. The college was really small, so I thought I could register everyone in one or two afternoons. Instead, my voter registration table stayed up for nearly a month and I continued to help students get registered to vote. Later, students told me their friends and family members wanted to register too, but didn’t know how, and we realized it was a much larger issue. I had been calling the Pima County Recorder’s Office very frequently with student’s questions and through my community organization, was able to expand our efforts. You could say I took my student advocacy responsibilities to another level, as I am now in charge of the office that oversees voter registration.
What’s one way our classrooms can be more culturally responsive and inclusive?
You have to intentionally decolonize your classroom by expressly stating what your values are and what they look like. When I was a high school teacher, I made inclusiveness part of my syllabus and the first assignment of the year. My students learned the meaning of the words, “racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, ageism and classism” as an assignment. We discussed how those ideas manifest in our society and how hurtful they are and connected them to how they distract us from learning. My students learned about these concepts so they would fully understand our classroom norms and not only what wasn’t allowed in our classroom, but why we didn’t allow those –isms in my classroom. I had to explain my lesson to the principal, and because I was teaching a book that dealt with race that semester, it tied in perfectly to my curriculum. Now that I am the boss of an office that oversees voter registration, early voting and document recording for the public, I am able to take those same ideas to my office. We are currently working to engage our staff with a vision, mission and values statement that encapsulates our commitment to equitably serving our constituents.
Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to Be Silenced
From the Arizona Department of Education
Each month, the Arizona Department of Education’s Accountability and Research division shares their newsletters, “The Grader”, to inform educator stakeholders on federal and state accountability systems, public reporting, and data systems. Subscribers vary greatly from accountability personnel, administrators, superintendents, teachers, information technology, policy, communications, and the media. You can view all The Grader newsletters on the Accountability page, including the most recent May edition.
From External Partners and Stakeholders
The Phoenix Indian Center is hosting a Summer Academy that is open to all American Indian high school students who wish to explore the college process while earning one college credit in Digital Storytelling. At the Summer Academy, students will learn the traditional art of storytelling with a modern twist using music, poetry, and technology. By enrolling in the Summer Academy, Phoenix Indian Center will pay for your registration and course fee. Please note all courses are online. Click here to register.
Leading and Learning Together
American Indian and Alaska Native students are eligible to receive unique educational supports from a variety of programs. However, many Native students do not receive the services they need and qualify for—simply because they are not identified as Native. This REL Northwest video explains the importance of properly identifying Native youth to ensure appropriate program funding, uphold treaty obligations, and track student achievement. It also suggests how to create school- or district-wide engagement plans for reaching out to Native families and caregivers. The companion family resource guide, Native Youth Count can help clarify the circumstances in which Native students are eligible for different services.
Strategies for Improving the Accuracy of Native Student Identification
"My grandchildren, education is the ladder.”- Chief Manuelito
Over 140 years ago, Chief Manuelito, a prominent Native American leader, affirmed the vitality of education. Learning, rather, knowledge was and remains one of the most important components of life. Chief Manuelito understood education as a ladder, in which, upward mobility is a direct result. Climbing a ladder symbolizes continual movement, where knowledge and education can continue to grow and impact those around you. It is for this reason that on behalf of the Office of Indian Education, we celebrate your climb! We acknowledge the challenges you faced while you gripped each peg of the ladder, one after another. We understand that while you rise, you bring your community, your culture, and your traditions. Additionally, we congratulate the time, effort, and sacrifice that you have overcome to advance yourself and your people. Whether you have reached the top of your academic ladder, or you will begin a new climb, we will always remain a resource to help you on your path. - Brooke Curleyhair, Office of Indian Education Program Coordinator.