I found out I would be traveling to Northeast Arizona to teach for three days. My first thought was, "What is in NE Arizona?" I know Phoenix, Sedona, Flagstaff, then......what is next? I wondered. Does anyone actually live up there? "Yes, you'll be working with the Navajo nation. Or maybe it will be the Hopi nation", I was told. "Ummmm....are they the same group?" I asked. No one really had more to tell me.
But here's what I found out when I googled info:
*I couldn't fly up there. I would need to drive and it would be about a 4 - 5 hour drive.
*I couldn't find a Hilton anywhere near First Mesa, where I would be teaching. What?! But I just reached Diamond status with Hilton. Where will I stay?
*Winslow, AZ is about an hour from there and they have hotels, albeit no Hiltons.
*But WAIT!!! Winslow has a Sonic----I feel like I'm back in the Motherland.
*I would be teaching Hopi and Navajo folks ("but what do I do so I don't offend anyone? I know NOTHING about their culture." I wondered)
The drive up here was gorgeous. I traversed through multiple topographies----from desert filled with cacti through the red rocks of Sedona (have you experienced a Vortex? Yeah, me neither) through the pine trees of Flagstaff, then east to the mesas and plateaus of Northeast Arizona. Then I entered Winslow, where I did the obligatory stand on the corner and walked along Route 66, getting my kicks through eating some mighty delicious Mexican food. My hotel was a lovely hacienda filled with antiques, artwork and special, unique rooms with big bathtubs. :)
The drive to First Mesa (past Second Mesa and yes, there is a 3rd Mesa, I asked) was a little over an hour and serene and it filled me with a sense of peace I don't often get in a big city. When I got to the elementary school, I met Sahmie, the elementary principal who was hosting our training. Sahmie is Hopi and I quickly realized we had much in common, particularly a love and passion for education. She is an advocate for community and wants to eliminate social injustice. I was there to teach them but I must admit I have learned more than I could ever teach them. Lindsay is Navajo and teaches 4th/5th grade and is introspective and extremely thoughtful.
I have learned:
*Verizon cell service is non-existent in northeast Arizona but not hearing the ding telling me I have new mail is really okay sometimes.
*A passion for student achievement and best teacher practices is universal, surpassing all ethnic and cultural boundaries.
*the Hopi and the Navajo have clans and I know a bit more about their culture than I knew last week (and I know enough to know I will never know everything there is to know about their nations)
*I love meeting new people and hearing about their love for education
*I am blessed beyond measure.