Gift Chalkboard Champions and Chalkboard Heroes this season!

When contemplating just the right holiday present to buy for your friends and family, consider gifting copies of Chalkboard Champions and Chalkboard Heroes. Each volume is packed with inspirational stories about remarkable educators in American history, and the historical implications of their pioneering work. These books make great gifts for individuals in the teaching profession and those aspiring to become teachers some day. They are also appealing to history buffs and social scientists.

Among the captivating stories in Chalkboard Champions is the story of Charlotte Forten Grimke, an African American born into freedom who volunteered to teach emancipated slaves as the Civil War raged around her. Read the eyewitness account of the Wounded Knee massacre through the eyes of teacher Elaine Goodale Eastman, and educator Mary Tsukamoto, imprisoned in a WWII Japanese internment camp. Read about Mississippi Freedom Summer teacher Sandra Adickes who, together with her students, defied Jim Crow laws to integrate the Hattiesburg Public Library. Marvel at the pioneering work of Anne Sullivan Macy, the teacher of Helen Keller, the efforts of teacher Clara Comstock to find homes for thousands of Orphan Train riders, and the dedication of Jaime Escalante, the East LA educator who proved to that inner city Latino youths could successfully meet the demands of a rigorous curriculum.

In Chalkboard Heroes, read about dedicated educators who were heroes both inside and outside of the classroom, including WWI veteran Henry Alvin Cameron and Civil War veteran Francis Wayland Parker. Learn about teachers who were social reformers such as Dolores Huerta, Civil Rights activist Robert Parris Moses, suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt, and Native American rights advocate Zitkala-Sa, all of whom put themselves at risk to fight for improved conditions for disenfranchised citizens. Discover brave pioneers who took great risks to blaze a trail for others to follow such as Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher in space; Willa Brown Chappell, the aviatrix who taught Tuskegee airmen to fly; Etta Schureman Jones, the Alaskan teacher who was interned in a POW camp in Japan during WWII; and Olive Mann Isbell, who established the first English school in California while the Mexican american War raged around her.

All these remarkable stories and more can be shared with someone you know this season.

Zitkala Sa: Music Teacher and Native American Rights Activist

portrait[1]One of the most amazing chalkboard champions and political activists in American history is Native American Zitkala Sa, whose Indian name translated means Red Bird.

This remarkable educator was born on February 22, 1876, on the Yankton Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Her father, an American of European descent, abandoned his family, leaving his young daughter to be raised alone by her Native American mother. Despite her father’s absence, Zitkala Sa described her childhood on the reservation as a time of freedom and joy spent in the loving care of her tribe.

In 1884, when she was just eight years old, missionaries visited the reservation and removed several of the Native American children, including Zitkala Sa, to Wabash, Indiana. There she was enrolled in White’s Manual Labor Institute, a school founded by Quaker Josiah White for the purpose of educating “poor children, white, colored, and Indian.” She attended the school for three years until 1887, later describing her life there in detail in her autobiography The School Days of an Indian Girl. In the book she described her despair over having been separated from her family, and having her heritage stripped from her as she was forced to give up her native language, clothing, and religious practices, and to cut her long hair, a symbolic act of shame among Native Americans. Her deep emotional pain, however, was somewhat brightened by the joy and exhilaration she felt in learning to read, write, and play the violin. Zitkala Sa became an accomplished musician.

After completing her secondary education in 1895, the young graduate enrolled at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, on a scholarship. The move was an unusual one, because at that time higher education for women was not common. In 1899, Zitkala Sa accepted a position as a music teacher at Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Here she became an important role model for Native American children who, like herself, had been separated from their families and relocated far from their home reservations to attend an Indian boarding school. In 1900, the young teacher escorted some of her students to the Paris Exposition in France, where she played her violin in public performances by the school band. After she returned to the Carlisle School, Zitkala Sa became embroiled in a conflict with the Carlisle’s founder, Colonel Richard Henry Pratt, when she expressed resentment over the rigid program of assimilation into the dominant white culture that Pratt advocated, and the fact that the school’s curriculum did not encourage Native American children to aspire to anything beyond lives spent as manual laborers.

As a political activist, Zitkala Sa devoted her energy and talent towards the improvement of the lives of her fellow Native Americans. She founded the National Council of American Indians in 1926 and served as its president until her death in 1938. She traveled around the country delivering speeches on controversial issues such as Native American enfranchisement, their full citizenship, Indian military service in World War I, corruption in the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the apportionment of tribal lands. In 1997 she was selected as a Women’s History Month Honoree by the National Women’s History Project.

Zitkala Sa: a national treasure and a genuine chalkboard champion.

You can read more about the Carlisle Indian School in my book, Chalkboard Champions, available from amazon.