PRESCOTT – Prescott School District teacher Jeff Ryan recently was recognized as one of only six Wisconsin First Nations Exemplar teachers for infusing American Indian Studies into the classroom.
Ryan teaches First Nations History, Advanced Placement United States History and Civics/World Geography at Prescott High School. He also serves as the Student Council advisor and head baseball coach.
In 1998, Ryan began a new course to teach about the First Nations of Wisconsin in 1998. In doing so, Ryan developed a close collaboration with the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. This relationship provides Prescott students the opportunity to learn about tribal governance and Ojibwe ways of being when they participate in a four-day cultural exchange and service project on the Lac du Flambeau Indian Reservation. Since the first trip to Lac du Flambeau in 2000, more than 200 Prescott students have participated in this cultural exchange, experiences that have deeply influenced both students and the local Prescott community as the students share their experiences on local TV and with their community.
Ryan believes teaching American Indian Studies is “good for kids,” and that his students enjoy discussing the controversial issues associated with Wisconsin Native Nations. He feels it is the responsibility of educators to lead discussion of these topics and expose students to multiple perspectives so that they have a greater understanding and awareness of the issues.
A group of Ryan’s students began addressing the issue of race-based mascots in Wisconsin’s public schools in 2008, leading to the students speaking before a committee at the Wisconsin Senate for proposed legislation about race-based mascots. State senators credited the Prescott students’ testimonies as being highly influential in the passage of the new state law in 2010 limiting the use of race-based names and images in Wisconsin public schools.
In 2016, Ryan was honored by the Wisconsin Indian Education Association with a Ronald Satz Friend of Indian Education award for his successful collaborations with the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and for his work with Prescott School District leaders to expand the integration of American Indian Studies across several classes in the school. Ryan previously won a Herb Kohl Fellowship from the Kohl Foundation for his instruction.
Submitted by Wisconsin First Nations, American Indian Studies in Wisconsin