EDUCATORS, SHI HONOR RETIRING TLINGIT TEACHER
May 21, 2020
Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) and educators with Juneau’s Tlingit, Culture, Language and Literacy (TCLL) program honored retiring Tlingit teacher Shgendootan George today for 22 years of outstanding service to Native students.
The TCLL team presented her with a copper tináa made by Tlingit artist Donald Gregory, a sea otter pelt and smoked black cod this afternoon during a small, socially-distanced event at the totem pole at Sandy Beach.
“We have been honored and privileged to have an educator of Shgen’s caliber teaching our Native students through the TCLL program for so many years, said SHI President Rosita Worl.
“She is the epitome of the type of teacher we hope to see in public schools, and she will be sorely missed.”
Throughout her career, George taught in Angoon, Japan and in Juneau, where she worked for 15 years through the TCLL program.
Her colleagues called her “irreplaceable” and her gift for teaching “unique.”
“When I first started working in TCLL, I was awe-struck with the ways in which Ms. Shgen approached teaching,” said colleague Josh Jackson. “She didn't teach to integrate the culture into the standards being taught, she integrated the standards into the culture.”
“Shgen has always used her knowledge of teaching to engage learners through a lens that suits their needs better than a normal classroom environment,” said TCLL teacher Hans Chester. “This unique gift has facilitated and prompted many students to engage in our language and culture beyond graduation, in ways that a school system cannot measure.”
TCLL teacher Jessica Chester called George a leader and the “ultimate Tlingit auntie.”
“Shgen creates a special relationship with each child she works with. They feel connected to their ancestors through her lessons because she intertwines traditional knowledge and skills within all activities,” Chester said.
“Shgen fights for Native students within a system that was made to assimilate. She deconstructs those systems and rebuilds them with traditional knowledge of clans, land, resources, songs and language. What she does is powerful.”
In addition to her teaching career, George is an accomplished curriculum developer, a gifted artist and a trustee of SHI. The TCLL program is largely funded through SHI.
About Shgendootan George
Shgendootan Robyn Kay George is the daughter of Gabriel and JoAnn George. She was raised in Angoon, Alaska, in her clan house, Keet Oxoo Hit (Killer whale tooth house). As a child she was surrounded by her culture and her mother’s art work. These two influences have greatly shaped her life. After graduating from the University of Puget Sound in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, she attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She then moved back to her home village where she earned her teaching certificate from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and she is now merging teaching with culture and art.
Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee and a Southeast Regional Language Committee.
CONTACT: Amy Fletcher, SHI Media and Publications Director, firstname.lastname@example.org; 907.586.9116
Photo of Shgendootan George by Brian Wallace, courtesy of Sealaska Heritage Institute. For a high-resolution version, contact email@example.com.