Hoopa Tribal Member Named Indian Education Director in Washington

Martha Sherman, left, shows her great-niece Haylee Sherman, right, from Crescent City, how to split cedar. / Photo courtesy of Martha Sherman

Q&A with Martha Sherman

By KRISTAN KORNS, Two Rivers Tribune

Hoopa Tribal Member Martha Sherman has worked as an Indian education specialist for more than 20 years in and around Tacoma, Washington. She is the daughter of Edmund Sherman and granddaughter of Martha Sherman, was born in Humboldt County, and grew up in Oregon and Washington State.

Sherman graduated from Highline Community College in Washington with a degree in early childhood education. She recently became the Indian Education Coordinator for the Fife Public Schools in Fife, Washington, located on the Puyallup Indian Reservation; one of the most urban reservations in North America.

Sherman talked with the Two Rivers Tribune and answered questions about her job and experiences working with Native-American students.

TRT: How did you get involved with Indian education and counseling?

Sherman: I started out working with students when I was in high school; mentoring and tutoring elementary school students in reading and math.

TRT: What influenced you when you were in school?

Sherman: I was skipping classes and only going for half the day. People talk about senior-itis, but I had 11th-grade-itis. I had an Indian Education Coordinator who told me 11th grade was not my last year. She told me to think ahead and helped me stay on track to graduate.

TRT: What do you think works best in keeping kids on track? Do you focus more on academics or extracurricular and cultural activities?

Sherman: I think both of them work together, because they don’t realize when they’re doing arts or crafts that they’re actually learning something. If we’re making drums, they have to measure, so we’re doing math. I work to get the whole community involved too.

TRT: What do you do to get the community involved?

Sherman: I have a parent meeting/family gathering once a month.  We have a potluck dinner, and there’s an activity for the kids to do. Yesterday we worked with clay to make coastal salmon design cutouts. We’ve made medicine bags, and made banners. Parents are also coming to the afterschool culture club one day a week.

TRT: What is your main goal for the kids you work with?

Sherman: My focus is on getting these kids to go on to higher education. We’ve taken them on field trips to the University of Washington for tours of the school. Yesterday we took them on a field trip to a trade school – Clover Park Technical College – where they have different sections for culinary arts, automotive, welding, and other trades.

TRT: How does it feel to help people who are in the same situation you were in at their age?

Sherman: I know what it was like when I was going through school and it wasn’t easy. I have such a small group that I can be concerned about them like an aunt or a grandparent would; making sure that these kids make it. I just try and let them know that there’s someone who cares about them.

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January 10th, 2014

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