Teaching on a Native American reservation

Alumni Delanie McMahon’18 graduated from Beloit College on “a rainy day in 2018.”  While at Beloit, she obtained two majors, education and youth studies and English. She now teaches at Menominee Indian High School, a school on a reservation in Wisconsin. 

After her time at Beloit, McMahon continued her career in education and is currently employed at Menominee Indian High School, in which she compares her other teaching experiences.

“I work with a student body that is primarily Native American. What’s different about working here is that I get to experience and learn about Menominee culture. We have a traditional arts class where our students learn beadwork. We have students who ask to go around and see if anyone wants to smudge. We even had a student and staff hand game tournament (which the staff won this year). As an English teacher, I even had the opportunity to create units that focus on Native American authors and poets like Stephen Joseph Gram, Chrystos, Joy Harjo, Luise Erdrich, and Eric Gainsworth. It is especially wonderful because I get to see students use the oral storytelling tradition and continue this tradition through creations of their own poems and short stories.” McMahon said.

The people she works are an important part of her job; however, the students are the most rewarding. 

“My favorite part of my job has to be my coworkers. I have an amazing English team who do everything within their power to help our students succeed. Although it isn’t just the English department that I work, I also have many teachers from other departments that I work with regularly. I have made friendships here that I will cherish forever,” McMahon said.

“The students are also a favorite part of my job. I get to see students truly understand and learn from texts. I get to see students revitalize their love for learning in surprising ways. The students that have a special place in my heart are the ones that come back and talk with me after they leave my room. This is mostly because it means they still see my room as a safe place to go, and actually enjoy learning in my room,” McMahon said.

Reflecting on her experience as an educator, she feels Beloit truly prepared her and provided helpful knowledge for the field. One thing McMahon noticed right away in teaching is that a lot of the professional development opportunities that schools provide to help teachers grow have is already been covered at Beloit. This has proven to be helpful within a new teaching role.

“Already knowing the content allows for me to interact with others in more complex ways,”  McMahon explained.

In her time at Beloit, McMahon found one professor to be extremely influential and helpful.

“I enjoyed my classes with Professor Jingjing Lou. I’ve found that I get more out of education classes with a good teacher than just from being focused on a specific topic or theme. I enjoyed several of Professor Lou’s classes because she allowed us to learn from each other,” McMahon said.

McMahon also obtained a major in English, and has been able to bring a little of Beloit College into her classes at Menominee Indian High School. 

“I took many different English classes. There are two classes that I thoroughly enjoyed, and when pinned against each other, I can’t pick a favorite. One was my Shakespeare class. I really enjoyed the acting that came along with the class and the analyzing of different choices. The opportunity to act out Shakespeare’s work is challenging, but wonderful,” McMahon said. “The other class was Shawn Gillen’s Music as Literature class. Songs are lyrical poetry. I had always loved to examine the lyrics of songs, but it was amazing to look at different genres of music and how their cultures, lifestyles, and challenges are reflected in different ways. I am actually implementing a ‘Music as Poetry’ unit in my class right now. Students who struggle to relate to the older texts normally enjoy working with music, as it’s easy to relate with the meaning behind the songs,” McMahon explained.

She leaves her advice for undergraduates at Beloit College.

“My advice to undergraduates is to listen, not just hear. The hardest part about being a college student and a young teacher is that people tend to ignore you or push your ideas aside. I am a huge believer of ‘treat others how you want to be treated.’ I suggest following this principle as the world and environment can only start to change when we are ready and willing to have actual conversations, internalize, and consider other people’s point of views and opinions,” McMahon urges. “Knowing and fully comprehending the other side of an argument or opinion is the best way to know you are on the right side of it.” McMahon continued  to share that she learned most from people who humbly faced adversity, and even failure. 

February 21, 2022

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