For Chris Robinson, it’s “not just the opportunity of a lifetime. It’s the opportunity of many lifetimes of those who struggled for equality, equity and recognition.”
The Model Laboratory High School teacher was recently appointed as the first full-year teacher-in-residence at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), part of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
Robinson, who boasts Creek and Georgia Cherokee blood from his mother and who identifies culturally with the Tlinglit of southeast Alaska, said the position “gives indigenous peoples of the United States the opportunity to craft curriculum that is accurate and representative of the periods of U.S. history from extinction to self-determination. This is the first real and meaningful instance that our people have had to do so in 500 years of contact.
“American Indians, Native Alaskans and Pacific Islanders have been and continue to be largely marginalized as peoples in our nation,” Robinson continued. “This continues in our educational processes, as American Indian stereotypes are the basis of content delivered to students at all levels throughout the nation. Students see pictures of the plains Indians, make a paper-towel roll totem pole, and a Kachina doll, and that is the extent of their content. We mean to change that. Every region in our country has local populations; we need teachers to access the history and present conditions of those peoples. We need to attack the continued marginalization of Indigenous Americans and bring the continued use of derogatory terms and images slowly to an end.”
As the 2016-17 teacher-in-residence, his duties include:
· working with NMAI staff and participating American Indian communities to create dynamic online lessons using Museum resources.
· conducting research as needed.
· helping to coordinate and conduct testing, review and evaluation with DC-area and other teachers.
· working with staff to create teacher training strategies and materials, including workshops, online tutorials, webinars, or other formats that best demonstrate best teaching practices.
· developing a unique lesson, digital project, storybook or other product related to topics represented in the NMAI modules currently under development.
· planning and providing a professional development workshop that raises awareness of the museum’s new Native Knowledge 360° online educational resources and promotes use of NMAI materials.
Robinson, whose residency begins Sept. 6 and continues through May 26, 2017, said he is eager to spend time at reservations, assisting groups writing content for Native Knowledge 360°. “What really excites me is getting the opportunity to train teachers on reservation schools in new methodologies and share insights I gained in my years in teaching in villages in rural Alaska in educating indigenous peoples.”
In informing Robinson of his selection, a Smithsonian search committee said his participation in the program “demonstrates the commitment this museum has to creating first-class educational materials about Native people for teachers worldwide.”
In his ninth year at Model Lab, Robinson teaches courses on economics, world civilizations, the United Nations, world cultures and two nationally unique high school courses: Ancient Egypt: Prehistory through the Ptolemy Dynasties and Archaeology Methods and Theory. His archaeology class is partnered with the Kentucky Archaeologic Survey and Eastern Kentucky University’s archaeology program.
Robinson, who holds the rank of assistant professor at EKU, is also serving his second term as a member of the Kentucky Native American Heritage Commission and as chief executive officer of the Kentucky Center for Native American Arts and Culture.
He will return to Model following his year with NMAI.