The National Indian Education Association recently named Mandy Smoker Broaddus, Assiniboine and Sioux, as the Educator of the Year.
“It was definitely a surprise, and I was quite honored,” Broaddus, 40, told the Great Falls Tribune.
Broaddus, who currently serves as director at the Montana Office of Public Instruction, grew up seeing the hardships on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, so she knows how important, and sometimes difficult getting an education can be. Disproportionately high rates of poverty and unemployment appear on many Native American reservations.
“Unfortunately, these kids come to school with many of the chips stacked against them. The hardships loom large and make the work of education difficult,” Broaddus told Pepperdine University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree.
She earned her master’s degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the University of Montana. Broaddus taught at Fort Peck Community College, and was dean of students at Frazer Public Schools before joining the Office of Public Instruction, reports the Great Falls Tribune.
It was during her time at Frazer that she started to fully comprehend the achievement gap between Native and non-Native students.
“I could see the students not having as great of success as I thought they could,” she told the Tribune. “There were a lot of barriers that our kids faced. It was hard to watch them struggle.”
Broaddus went to work with OPI as the first Indian student achievement specialist in the Indian Education program in 2005 when Montana began funding Indian Education for All, which requires Native American cultural literacy across the curriculum.
“Mandy is an unparalleled advocate for Indian students and believes in the power of providing all Montana students with an education that reflects the state’s cultural heritage,” Denise Juneau, superintendent of public instruction, told the Tribune. “Mandy consistently reminds all of us that behind every data point is a child’s story that we must respect and find a way to support each student in achieving their hopes and dreams.”