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Sullivan's mission: revitalizing the Ojibwe language

Michael Sullivan

Michael Sullivan

Faculty members at The College of St. Scholastica have received support to develop educational materials to help preserve the Ojibwe language.

Michael Sullivan, assistant professor of Ojibwe, and Valerie Tanner, assistant professor of Ojibwe, were recently awarded $46,000 for their "Ojibwe Curriculum for Immersion School Teachers" project.

The funding includes $32,000 from the Grotto Foundation, $10,000 from the Blandin Foundation and $4,000 from the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation.

The project will provide resources to teachers in Ojibwe language immersion schools, where students learn primary school subjects in Ojibwe. This approach helps to strengthen and preserve the Ojibwe language, but challenges can arise in developing terminology for all school subjects.

"A lot of the verbiage needed to teach in the immersion school setting is kind of rare and hard to access," Sullivan explained. Tanner and Sullivan will use the funds to work with Ojibwe elders to put together a series of 12-15 webinars created by and for immersion school teachers.

The webinars will cover a variety of topics appropriate for elementary school teachers, from dealing with unruly students to basic mathematics, culturally appropriate word problems, and basic reading and writing.

Once complete, the webinars will be available for free on St. Scholastica's website.

Sullivan said that there are Ojibwe immersion schools emerging all around the region, from the Twin Cities and Michigan to Ontario, Canada. This makes the webinars a key resource for new schools and educators.

"It's going to provide some support for teachers who don't have the opportunity or the time to put in all of the footwork," Sullivan said.
The initiative is just the latest achievement for St. Scholastica's well-regarded Native Teacher program, which has graduated some of the area's top immersion school teachers.

"I think it's a really huge contribution to a massive need everywhere in the revitalization movement," he said.