Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Sealaska Heritage Institute and educators with Juneau’s Tlingit, Culture, Language and Literacy program honored retiring Tlingit teacher Shgendootan George on Thursday.
George worked for 22 years in service to Native students.
The TCLL team presented her with a copper tináa made by Tlingit artist Donald Gregory 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 a curriculum developer, an artist, and a trustee of SHI. The TCLL program is largely funded through SHI.