Caring, Nurturing, Teaching at St. Joseph’s Indian School

I just Love St. Joseph’s in the spring time. The campus is blooming both figuratively and literally! We can finally go outside without freezing (the younger ones don’t mind the cold, but us older ones sure do!)

Robin, St. Joseph's Special Education Teacher
Robin, St. Joseph’s Special Education Teacher

My, this year has flown by, there is still so much I want to do with my students. But alas, I will have to wait until next year!

I work exclusively with two boys, both 8 years old. What a wild ride we take each day! Learning is difficult for them, as well as others, but St. Joseph’s is blessed to have staff who are caring and nurturing for all our Lakota students. Those who need our help in whatever way, get it.

Have I told you how much I love it here?

I was privileged to go to a conference in California earlier this spring to pick up some new tricks and revitalize some old tricks for working with students with different needs. It is amazing how many people around this country – and other countries – care for students with special needs.

The biggest and best advice I remember is to Just Breathe! Not just the little breaths we take each moment, but to breathe from our stomach and get full amounts of oxygen. This helps the mind work better, keeps momentum up, and energizes you. Fill your tummy up with air and then let it out slowly. AHHHH refreshing! Many things I learned were specific for students I work with. Breathing helps – A LOT!

I am excited to work in the Summer School Program this year. We will combine both computer learning and hands-on science activities from NASA. One of our adventures will be to see a private plane at the airport. The students will get to sit in the plane and have their picture taken. They will also learn how the plane runs, and see it take off and land.

To help with all these adventures, my Para and I were lucky enough to be able to interview St. Joseph’s high school students looking for summer jobs. St. Joseph’s Indian School held a mini job fair, so they could see all the summer jobs available here on campus. I think we picked a good one to work with us!

Another one of my pleasures is being a Co-Advisor for the National Honors Society at St. Joseph’s. We work with 4th – 8th grade students who have shown good moral character, work ethic and show service to others. Academic grades are also a factor. We had 15 students inducted this year. One of our projects was to make blue ribbons for April’s Child Abuse Awareness Month. They made the ribbons and then passed them out to all the classes.

The next activity we are working on will be for the local domestic violence shelter. They are discussing either a bake sale or a collection of needed articles. We have such a generous group of kids!

We are always grateful for your prayers – we have seen the power of them over and over. Prayers to keep our children safe, prayers for our staff to better serve them in ways they need, and for healing old and new wounds of all kinds. Thank you for your generous support of our programs and all you do! I love it here!

God bless,

Robin, Special Education Teacher

National Honors Society at St. Joseph’s Indian School

Wow, this year is going by so fast! There have been a lot of great things happening around St. Joseph’s Indian School. First I want to tell you

Robin, St. Joseph’s Special Ed Teacher

that Fast ForWord is going great, thanks to all of your generosity and support.

Next I would like to tell you about a wonderful opportunity we have to start a new group here at St. Joseph’s. We are now sponsoring two National Honors Society programs!

We are pleased and honored to welcome seven outstanding students to the National Elementary Honor Society for grades 4 – 6. We are equally pleased and honored to welcome eight outstanding students in grades 7-8.

Congratulations everyone!

Our induction ceremony was held Friday, January 30.
President Mike presented National Honors Society inductees with their certificates.

In order for students to be recommended for nomination – which is a SUPER honor in itself – they must have a GPA of 3.0 or above. There were 29 students in grades 4 -8 who earned that distinction.

Next, the students had to fill out a packet of information describing how they serve their community, and provide leadership, their responsibilities around school and home, as well as sports and extracurricular activities they have participated in.

Those packets then went to yet another committee comprised of one teacher, one administrator, and one houseparent. They each rated the packets on a 1 – 4 scale. Those numbers were added together and divided by 3. Our ceiling was 3.5 for membership. They all were so very close!

We had our first induction ceremony on Friday. It was truly a memorable event for our students! Parents were encouraged to come and we had our whole student body there. We will start meetings soon to elect our officers. Please keep us in your prayers, that we may work together for the benefit of others.

We’re so proud of our newest National Honors Society members!
St. Joseph’s is honored to welcome 15 Lakota (Sioux) students into the National Honors Society.

New & Innovative, but also Tried & True

Hi everyone! My name is Robin and I am the Department Chair for Special Education at St. Joseph’s. I am also the instructor for Fast

Robin, St. Joseph’s Special Ed Teacher

ForWord. I just want to say first and for most I LOVE it here at St. Joseph’s Indian School!

There are so many wonderful opportunities for our students as well as staff. We care for the WHOLE CHILD – mind, body, heart and spirit! I believe that’s really important. We try to give our students the best education possible by introducing new and exciting programs, but also incorporating “tried and true” techniques. Sometimes it feels as though there is not enough time in the day to accomplish all that we would like, but we do our best!

Along with new and exciting ways of learning, there are always tried and true methods used in the classrooms.
Along with new and exciting ways of learning, there are always tried and true methods used in the classrooms.

One of the things I do is work with the Fast ForWord program. This program works with the cognitive mind by teaching and re-teaching the brain how to think, find information, retain information and recall it. To the students, it’s a computer game. I currently have eight students working with this program. We are looking at a few more students to see if they would benefit as well.

They love it! The boys and girls are motivated and look forward to coming each day. We start earlier than normal Friday mornings (7:30 am) as Fridays are busier than other days. Despite the early hour, they are here right on time!

I have two who have “leveled up” already this semester, after just two and a half weeks – I am

St. Joseph’s is fully accredited and meets all the standards of the State of South Dakota.
St. Joseph’s gives the Lakota children opportunities to learn in different ways.

so proud! There are a couple of other students who are so, so close. Keep your fingers crossed for them!

I am so proud of this group, as I am of all the students of St. Joseph’s Indian School!

Have said lately how much I LOVE it here? Thank you for your support!


Have I mentioned how much I love it here?

Hi! My name is Robin. I am the Special Education Department Chair here at St. Joseph’s Indian School. We had a fantabulous year; I am so proud of the Lakota (Sioux) boys

Robin, St. Joseph’s Special Ed Teacher

and girls for striving for the best!

I was privileged to start a new program with five students this year. It is called Fast For Word and is a series of game-like exercises that help connect brain waves. It creates new pathways for information to travel and be sustained in the brain. It is helpful for children who are either right sided only or left sided only, and for kids who simply don’t understand things in traditional ways.

We had one student go from a 1.7 reading level to 3.8 reading level as a result of the program. That’s a two year and one month jump! Two others are now on grade level for reading. This is a huge accomplishment!

And the best part? The students LOVED it!

A special computer program helped the Lakota children improve their reading skills.
Five Lakota students used Fast For Word to improve their reading skills this year.

One of the girls said, “It is making my mind work in ways I didn’t think it could!”

It was great to see their progress. The game that was the hardest for all of them at the start turned out to be the hands-down favorite!

The students were extremely dedicated and came in at 7:30 am each morning. It was a race to see who would get here first – me or them! I have to admit, two of them beat me almost every morning. They were there between 7:20-7:25 am. I came at 7:27 am!

On occasion, if they missed a class for one reason or another, they would:

1. Come to the home I was working in on a weekend,

2. Go to Saturday school, or

3. Do it twice in the same day.

They wanted their scores to go higher! We had so much fun!

There are so many opportunities to interact with the kids at St. Joseph’s. Not only do I teach Special Ed and do the required paper work, but I also like to sub in St. Joseph’s homes. I really enjoy this as I get to see the kids in another light!

At the homes, they are more relaxed and have their own responsibilities and activities in a different environment. I can now say I have been a substitute houseparent in all of the first through eighth grade homes and some of the high school homes as well!

I am looking forward to August and starting year number four helping Native American children achieve their dreams.

Hey, did I mention HOW MUCH I LOVE IT HERE?

“Subbing in the homes helps me see the students in a different light.” Robin, St. Joseph’s Special Ed Teacher.
“Subbing in the homes helps me see the students in a different light.” Robin, St. Joseph’s Special Ed Teacher.

Another reason I love St. Joseph’s Indian School

The Lakota students and their teachers took a break to read a Dr. Seuss story.
Who can go to work in their pajamas, then sit in the hall and read Dr. Seuss with kids? ME!

There is much testing going on at St. Joseph’s at this time of year, especially in my area. Individual Education Plans are wrapping up for this year, but new students coming in need to be placed in the appropriate setting. I have been using Key Math to see where our holes are in Math and this has become a very useful tool! I learned something new this year! 🙂

Winter is teasing us right now. It will be nice outside one day and then it turns ugly cold! It is creating cabin fever! We do go outside with the Lakota boys and girls if it is above zero and the wind chill is above zero. Even though the kids might complain when they go out, they enjoy getting a breath of fresh air and running to keep warm.

Basketball is a hit here at our school – both boys and girls! Even our little ones are pretty good at basketball! They take on the bigger kids when they get the chance. It is nice to see the care the older students show the little ones. Lifting them up to make baskets, stealing the ball and giving it to a little one, pretending that the little ones stole it from them, and “trying” to block the shot!

Have I mentioned this time, how much I love it here at St. Joseph’s? Well the basketball story is just one reason. There is a ton more reasons. Who can go to work in their pajamas, then sit in the hall and read Dr. Seuss with kids?

ME, that’s who! We are reading “Cat in the HAT!”

The kids loved it! It was so much fun, especially when we started reading in unison!!! Imagine that! What a magical time it was! And then we got treats afterwards!!!

There are still many more reasons I love it here – stayed tuned!

The Lakota children love their teachers at St. Joseph’s Indian School!
Samantha, Robin and Kyla read for Dr. Seuss’ birthday.

Guest Blogger: Robin

This month has been very busy here at St. Joseph’s!

With Thanksgiving just past, we have much to be thankful for. Our Lakota students are continually progressing in their studies and the weather (even the chilly parts) is not bad for this time of year. We are grateful for those friends who have come and gone from our lives, and for the multitude of blessings that our Creator has given us.

In the Special Education Department, we are assisting in the classrooms with those students who require our services and others who are working on the same concepts. This is going well, as the students get the individual or small group help they so need to be successful.

Another highlight is that the students are beginning to ask for help and taking on the responsibility of their own learning. As a teacher, this is what we hope for!

It is so fun to see the light spark and shine in their eyes! We have many people who are willing to take the extra time with our students.

The students now see this as a positive! It takes a while to earn trust, but when it happens, it is truly a blessing.

So count your blessings each and every day – no matter how small. They all add up to something great.

The students here at St. Joseph’s Indian School are a blessing to all of us working with them!

Did I remember to say how much I LOVE it here?!?!

Have a very blessed Christmas Season and a Merry and Happy New Year!!!!

Guest Blogger: Robin

Hi, my name is Robin and I am the Special Education Department Chair here at St. Joseph’s Indian School. I have a Bachelor of Science in Education/Special Education and a Master’s in Reading and Literature. I just have to say that I really LOVE it here at St. Joseph’s Indian School! There is so much to do and to volunteer for.

My story is a continuation. I started here in 2002 and was only able to stay for two years. During one of those two years I was the Director of Special Education. I had the awesome opportunity to mentor a beautiful young lady, who is now at her home in Lower Brule.

I also had the opportunity to tutor in the high school homes three times per week. One of the students I tutored back then has gone on to graduate with honors, earning her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing. I am so proud of Savannah!

My day job was Special Education for those students needing a little more help to be successful. Not only did I schedule meetings, plan lessons and file reports, I was able to teach some remarkable young people. I had small groups of students in grades 1-4. The stories of some of our students are heart wrenching to say the least. I am just glad the Lord put me here to work with them and pray for them. They have blessed me in immeasurable ways.

I then had to go to Georgia to help take care of my elderly in-laws. We were gone for seven years. My in-laws passed away and we stayed a few more years because of the economy.

But, my heart was always here at St. Joseph’s.

I decided not to renew my contract with the school system I was at and began calling St. Joseph’s to see if there were any positions available.  Then came that wonderful September morning I got a call from Melissa in Human Resources asking me to come for an interview. OF COURSE I JUMPED ON THE OFFER!

So, the last week in September 2011, I was back at St. Joseph’s interviewing for Special Education Teacher. I was so excited, I was in tears!

Well, they accepted me back here and I was elated. They asked when I could start and without thinking I said any time! They told me to think about it and get things settled there in Georgia!

So I thought about it… My grandson was to be born October 13, 2011 and my granddaughter was turning 5 on October 13 as well. I stayed for Dakota’s party and left the following morning, leaving behind my son and my husband to “finish up” down there.

I also left my daughter and two of my five granddaughters there in Georgia.  Before that, we were inseparable!

I drove all by myself (I’ve NEVER done that before) all across this country to get to Iowa to see my grandson and then on to South Dakota to come to St. Joseph’s. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my family – but I was going “home” to St. Joe’s!

You may be wondering why I am telling this story. I want you all to know what a wonderful, caring, and dedicated staff there is here at St. Joseph’s Indian School.

The students are awesome as well! They are people you will never forget. The school is always evolving. In the following picture are the Tiny Tot jingle dress dancers. One of the girls is my granddaughter, Dakota (blue dress with bows). Another is a houseparent’s daughter, the little one and the one with her back to the camera is from a neighboring reservation, and one is the daughter of a St. Joseph’s teacher.

St. Joe’s takes the term Tiyospayeextended family full circle. Not only do we serve the students and their families, we remember to serve our own families as well.

As in many jobs, we dedicate much of our time and energy to our work and forget family is just as important. Here at St. Joseph’s, our “work family” is important, but our own families are as well. The students here love to meet our families and play with them at various activities.

The Special Education program is unique here at St. Joseph’s.

We follow all Federal guidelines when testing and supporting our students. We try to keep the students in the classroom and modify or accommodate as needed there.

Our program is more the resource type, as we have limited staff in this area. Our Family Service Counselors help us with behaviors and other concerns that the special education teachers deal with daily in public schools. Although I do have a lot of paper work, I also get to work with my team and with many students individually or in small groups. As I said, we are unique. We have a lot of support people here who help with groups, interventions and any other requests to help a student be successful.

Why do I love it here? Well, the beginning of the school year is amazing. When the students see that you are here again for another year, and you have not left them, they are so thrilled and excited to see you!

I am fortunate to be able to work in the homes as a substitute as well. This is where you see the awesomeness of our structure. The kids begin to feel as though you really want to help them succeed. They are responsible for doing their charges (chores). This includes doing their laundry, keeping their rooms clean, helping clean the home and helping with the meals and snacks.

They go on family trips and outings, do things in town, do things for others in the community and around school. The students take their “jobs’’ very seriously and are proud of what they know how to do. As a mentor I get to do activities with my mentee, whether it is on campus or in town. We learn about each other and get to teach each other things we didn’t know how to do. It is always great when she sees me and gives me a hug!

Did I tell y’all how much I love St. Joe’s????