Loren Spears: Native American Teacher and Cultural Educator

2437_71373757792_8359_a[1]Many talented and dedicated educators work diligently to foster an appreciation for the cultures of under-represented ethnic groups. One such educator is Loren Spears, a teacher, essayist, artist, and tribal council woman of the Narragansett Tribe in Rhode Island.

As a youngster, Loren attended Chariho Regional High School in her home town of Charleston, a rural village in southern Rhode Island. After her high school graduation, she earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and teaching at the University of Rhode Island, graduating in 1988. She earned her master’s degree in education at the University of New England in 2002.

Loren’s teaching career spanned two decades and included twelve years as a first grade and fourth grade teacher in the Newport Public School system working with at-risk children. Throughout her professional career, Loren has always been a strong advocate for integrating more Native American history and experiential learning into school curriculum. Loren says she remembers, “being in a history class during my elementary days and actually reading that I supposedly didn’t exist, that my family didn’t exist, that my people didn’t exist.” She has spent much of her adult life correcting that misimpression.

In addition to her professional accomplishments as a teacher, Loren works as the executive director and curator of the Tomaquag Indian Memorial Museum in Exeter, Rhode Island. The museum was the site of a private, state-certified school, the Nuweetooun School, which this talented educator directed from 2003 to 2010. Nuweetooun, which translates as “Our Home” in the Narragansett language, was founded by Loren with the help of the Narragansett community and generous donations, including monies from a local charity, the Narragansett Tribe, and the Rhode Island Foundation. Though Loren is Narragansett, the school is not connected to any specific tribe. As the school’s director, Loren made sure that the Nuweetooun School provided Native American children from kindergarten through the eighth grade an experiential, collaborative curriculum based on Native American traditions and culture, as well as standard academic subjects including mathematics, language arts, social studies, science, and health.

In June, 2005, Loren received the Feinstein Salute to Teachers, Teacher of the Month. In 2006, she earned the Native Heritage Gathering Award, and in 2010, Loren was chosen as one of eleven Extraordinary Women honorees for Rhode Island in the area of education. Today, this chalkboard champion lives in Providence, Rhode Island, and uses her vast energy to focus on educating the public on indigenous issues, arts, culture, and history through cultural arts programming, lectures, art classes, inter-generational programming, grant writing, exhibit development and design, curriculum development, school design, Native American education, and educational consulting.