July 05, 2023

Jennifer Anderson

Elementary Education, MAT ’23
Part-Time Cohort for District Employees

As a Chahta student and educator, Jennifer Anderson was inspired to earn her Elementary MAT and work towards inclusive and equitable education for indigenous populations.

Jennifer Anderson, Elementary MAT '23 Making “the education experience better for students” might sound like a daunting endeavor, but Jennifer Anderson, Part-Time Elementary MAT ’23, has set her mind, energy, and heart to the task. Lewis & Clark’s commitment to social justice, combined with the opportunity to study part-time as a district employee, made her program decision easy.

Anderson shares that she grew up exposed to trauma, unable to speak the native language, and as a minority in most classrooms. It is these lived experiences, however, that have fueled her commitment towards classroom equity, especially for Indigenous students.

Anderson also shares that she was pleasantly surprised by the diversity within her cohort.

“Our cohort is very diverse compared to those that I have previously experienced at other institutions,” she notes, adding that it felt like the graduate school’s dedication to access wasn’t purely lip-service, it was a lived mission.

Being amongst her peers, especially those who shared her experience as a paraeducator, gave Anderson the support she needed to continue with the program while maintaining her district position.

“This unique combination of diversity and representation is what made our cohort so inspiring,” says Anderson. She also observes that being amongst younger students was energizing and a “reminder why everyone should be in school”. Simultaneously, being around those who “have similar career and family experiences” felt like a gift.

Ultimately, it was her faculty’s commitment to not only her academic success, but also her emotional well-being, that made the experience so rewarding. Knowing that her educators were invested in her and her family kept her going through challenging times.

“The relationship with my full time faculty is amazing. My child had to have heart surgery during my winter term, and the faculty stayed in touch because they deeply cared. My educator team actually sent a care package to my child. They truly are a part of my family.”

Now a graduate of the the Elementary MAT Program, Anderson says that becoming a teacher has only strengthened her desire to commit her life to educational equity.

“Social justice is very important to me,” she says. “I plan to not only introduce the SB13 curriculum in the current state plan, but also to introduce other social justice topics to the multiple perspectives that I teach.”

The SB13 curriculum aims to incorporate an inclusive K-12 Native American Curriculum in Oregon public schools, provide professional development to educators, and provide funds to each of the nine federally recognized tribes in Oregon to create individual place-based curricula. Anderson’s commitment to this work is essential to the evolution of equitable education across the United States. The work wasn’t easy in the classroom, nor will it be in the future. However, having a cohort of peers and faculty committed to justice and student well-being makes the work feel accessible and collaborative.

Anderson’s experience is reflective of many working professionals. She has multiple responsibilities and wears multiple hats in her career, all in addition to being a mother. The pressure is tremendous. However, Lewis & Clark’s flexible part-time program was a place of growth and nourishment.

“My experience has been nothing but positive,” she says. “I had the opportunity to keep my job and benefits, as well as further my education. While being a mother of three children and a student has been incredibly challenging, my professors have been nothing but understanding. That has made all of the difference.”

At Lewis & Clark access moves both ways; ensuring access for the students we serve, and making graduate-level education accessible to our community.