GRIC Education Department Hosts Virtual Teacher In-Service Day Ahead of School Year

Emma Hughes

Gila River Indian News


The Gila River Indian Community’s Tribal Education Department annual Teacher In-Service event was aired live by the Gila River Broadcast Corp. and on social media on Friday, Aug. 14. 


The annual event brings together staff and educators for a day to reflect and prepare for the new school year. This year’s event was virtual due to the pandemic.


Anthony Gray, TED Culture Coordinator, began the program with words of encouragement. Gray introduced videos submitted by the Community’s schools with greetings from staff and tours around the school campuses.


During the event, Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis announced that effective Aug. 16, schools in the Community would resume virtual learning due to “an alarming rate” of COVID-19 infections among school-aged children, for whom no COVID vaccine has been made available.  


“We have to keep our children safe,” said Lt. Gov. Monica Antone in regards to the new Executive Order. Lt. Gov. Antone recognized the teachers and staff for their continuous diligence during these unprecedented times, saying “your dedication does not go unnoticed.”


Gov. Lewis also acknowledge school employees’ hard work and dedication. “Our teachers will always be one of our greatest resources,” he said. “There is no greater resource than our children and there is no greater influence outside the home than a teacher.” 


The Community’s increased focused and investment on education has begun to pay dividends, with greater resources available for teachers and students. The Higher Education Program provided scholarships to more than 200 students for the 2021 academic school year. The program produced 84 graduates, including vocational certificates, diplomas, associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees. 

New state of the art school campuses have been constructed for Blackwater Community School and Casa Blanca Community School. The school buildings integrate traditional values through education, language and art while providing the latest technology and innovative spaces for children to learn. 


“During this year we realized the importance of inspiring students,” said Isaac Salcido, TED Director, who called the Community’s schools a source of inspiration, hope, kindness, understanding and greater learning.


Gov. Lewis welcomed special guest speaker Natalie Diaz, from Fort Mohave and a GRIC member (District 3). Diaz was recently awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. She teaches creative writing at Arizona State University. 


Diaz expressed her gratitude to be among the Akimel O’otham and Pee Posh during the virtual event and shared her experiences as well some of her poetry.


Diaz, who played basketball for the majority of her life, became the first Native American woman to play in an NCAA collegiate championship game. 


“I was able to pursue a graduate degree because of the Gila River education system,” said Diaz. “It gave me the opportunity to push myself.”


In closing, Gov. Lewis assured the Community’s educators about how his administration is working to provide resources to close the “digital divide,” to address virtual learning. 


“We are standing with you. We always see each and every one of you as partners, to succeed in teaching our young Community members,” said Gov. Lewis.