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Nkwusm Salish Language School welcomes new faces

By Adriana Fehrs

Nkwusm is undergoing several changes. Seven new staff members have been welcomed on board. April Charlo, Nkwusm Executive Director, says, “I am really excited to see what this group can do for our school, language, and our community, because it’s a pretty amazing superstar line up.” Pictured left to right, top row: Francis Brown, Jackson Adams, Steve Arca, Goozer Thomas, Elizabeth DeRoche, Michael Munson, and April Charlo. Pictured left to right, middle row: Trina Felsman, Echo Brown, and Kayla Dix. Pictured left to right, bottom row: Stephen Small Salmon, and Gene Beaverhead. (Adriana Fehrs photo)  Nkwusm is undergoing several changes. Seven new staff members have been welcomed on board. April Charlo, Nkwusm Executive Director, says, “I am really excited to see what this group can do for our school, language, and our community, because it’s a pretty amazing superstar line up.” Pictured left to right, top row: Francis Brown, Jackson Adams, Steve Arca, Goozer Thomas, Elizabeth DeRoche, Michael Munson, and April Charlo. Pictured left to right, middle row: Trina Felsman, Echo Brown, and Kayla Dix. Pictured left to right, bottom row: Stephen Small Salmon, and Gene Beaverhead. (Adriana Fehrs photo)

ARLEE — The NKWusm Salish Language Immersion School is undergoing major changes. New employees and new construction are being welcomed in with open arms. A total of seven new employees will be starting work on Monday, August 11.

NKWusm had recent concerns on their adult learning program ending. Funding was running low due to an expiring grant. Thanks to a private donation, Steve Arca and Kale 'Goozer’ Thomas, Nkwusm Adult Learners, will work with two new adult learners Trina Felsman and Kayla Dix. Stephen Small Salmon, NKWusm Language Specialist, says the goals for the adult learners is to have them speak at least fifteen to twenty minutes in Salish without stopping within twelve months.

The program uses a curriculum based on materials developed by Chris Parkin and the Kalispell Language Program. They use a variety of methods to teach Salish, from Salish tutor software, books, CD’s, repetition and review, to elder and student immersion. The Salish-Pend d’Oreille Culture Committee (SPCC) Intensive Salish Program has used the same curriculum since January.

“We have to show that we are improving,” says Small Salmon. Both he and Salish Elder Pat Pierre will be doing immersion with the adult learners. The students will undergo two hours of Salish immersion in the morning, and one hour of immersion in the afternoon.

Nkwusm Adult Learners Steve Arca (L) and Kale ‘Goozer’ Thomas, will work with two additional adult learners Kayla Dix and Trina Felsman starting Monday, August 11. Arca is hopeful for the program. “We are in the middle of making history for our language,” he says. (Adriana Fehrs photo) Nkwusm Adult Learners Steve Arca (L) and Kale ‘Goozer’ Thomas, will work with two additional adult learners Kayla Dix and Trina Felsman starting Monday, August 11. Arca is hopeful for the program. “We are in the middle of making history for our language,” he says. (Adriana Fehrs photo)

Arca is hopeful for the program. “We are in the middle of making history for our language,” he says.

Kayla Dix, of Arlee, a SPCC Intensive Salish Language Program Apprentice, will begin work at NKWusm on August 18. Dix explains that she chose to come to the school to be an Intermediate Language Apprentice so she could continue her progression in the Salish language. “The SPCC adult program is ending on September 15, and I really want to continue to learn the language. Especially since my two year old daughter will be attending NKWusm.” Dix will be working along side her brother Goozer Thomas.

Trina Felsman, of Arlee, is another new addition to the adult learning program. Felsman says she’s been around the Salish language all her life. “My mother Peggy Big Sam spoke Salish to me at the house all the time.” Felsman has also worked various positions at NKWusm. Since 2003 she has been with the school for nine years, but left in 2011. Now Felsman is back, and says she is excited to be there. “I am just so grateful for the opportunity. I want to make the most of it and really further my Salish speaking skills. The survival of our language is incumbent on us learning and sharing the language.”

Elizabeth DeRoche recently landed a role at Nkwusm. DeRoche, a recent SKC graduate, will be the new Math and Science Teacher. “I’m excited to be here at Nkwusm and to further my language. I really believe in what this school is doing,” she says. (Adriana Fehrs photo) Elizabeth DeRoche recently landed a role at Nkwusm. DeRoche, a recent SKC graduate, will be the new Math and Science Teacher. “I’m excited to be here at Nkwusm and to further my language. I really believe in what this school is doing,” she says. (Adriana Fehrs photo)

The Salish immersion school will also be welcoming on a new cook. Francis Brown, of Arlee, is no stranger to the kitchen. “I’ve been cooking my whole life. It’s always been a passion of mine,” says Brown. Staff and children alike are certainly in for a treat; Brown has been a cook at the Bison CafČ in Ravalli for eight years. He says he will be trying out several dishes for the staff before school starts.

Elizabeth DeRoche and Echo Brown are the new teachers at the school. DeRoche will teach Math and Science to Kindergarten through Eighth grade, and Brown will teach English Reading to Kindergarten through Eighth grade. The duo will teach their subject in the mornings, and in the afternoons will gather the school together to teach as a whole group. “It’s different than a public school, but it’s very supportive and family based,” says Brown.

Brown has been learning Salish for the past ten years. She’s taught Salish at SKC with Mali Matt, and is finishing up at the SPCC Intensive Salish Language Program. “I really wanted to come here and teach because I really love working with kids,” she says.

DeRoche, of Arlee, is a recent graduate from SKC. She has a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education degree. “I’ve been taking Salish for about a year, while I was studying at SKC, and I’m excited to be here at NKWusm and further my language. I really believe in what this school is doing,” she says.

April Charlo (R), Nkwusm Executive Director, stands with Elizabeth DeRoche (L), the new Nkwusm Math and Science Teacher. Charlo will welcome on seven new staff members on Monday, August 11. (Adriana Fehrs photo) April Charlo (R), Nkwusm Executive Director, stands with Elizabeth DeRoche (L), the new Nkwusm Math and Science Teacher. Charlo will welcome on seven new staff members on Monday, August 11. (Adriana Fehrs photo)

Jackson Adams, of Ronan, is the new Bus Driver and Maintenance man. Adams is also finishing up at the SPCC adult program, and hopes he can further his language skills while working at NKWusm. He previously worked for the Fatherhood program and taught both Kootenai and Salish.

April Charlo, NKWusm Executive Director, says, “I am really excited to see what this group can do for our school, language, and our community, because it’s a pretty amazing superstar line up.”

School starts August 25, and their framework focuses on student’s language skills. “Everyday we have on the schedule, time for individualized one-on-one time with each student. We are doing this with the intension of ëstudents come first’, and meeting their needs is of the upmost priority,” says Charlo. The school will focus on balancing academics, language and traditional teachings.

Thomas adds that the students will also be spending time with his own horses. “It’s a large part of who we are as a people. It’s important that children learn the connection, and is also about teaching respect and the language that is associated with horses.”

Along with the new employees and curriculum, NKWusm has also been fervently working on their website. The will be adding staff info and schedules to the site shortly.

Nkwusm is undergoing several changes. Seven new staff members have been welcomed on board. April Charlo, Nkwusm Executive Director, says, “I am really excited to see what this group can do for our school, language, and our community, because it’s a pretty amazing superstar line up.”Pictured left to right, top row: Francis Brown, Jackson Adams, Steve Arca, Goozer Thomas, Elizabeth DeRoche, April Charlo, and Michael Munson. Pictured left to right, middle row: Echo Brown, Trina Felsman, and Kayla Dix. Pictured left to right, bottom row: Gene Beaverhead, and Stephen Small Salmon. (Adriana Fehrs photo)  Nkwusm is undergoing several changes. Seven new staff members have been welcomed on board. April Charlo, Nkwusm Executive Director, says, “I am really excited to see what this group can do for our school, language, and our community, because it’s a pretty amazing superstar line up.”Pictured left to right, top row: Francis Brown, Jackson Adams, Steve Arca, Goozer Thomas, Elizabeth DeRoche, April Charlo, and Michael Munson. Pictured left to right, middle row: Echo Brown, Trina Felsman, and Kayla Dix. Pictured left to right, bottom row: Gene Beaverhead, and Stephen Small Salmon. (Adriana Fehrs photo)

The school is also working on their involvement with the community. “We are striving to build relationships with the school, to create bonds and to strengthen us as a whole,” says Charlo. Arca adds, “We are recreating the NKWusm image, and we are looking to strengthen the Salish language.”

Networking hasn’t hurt the school at all. Thanks to Native Generational Change of Missoula, a ëgrassroot’ organization that focuses on developing young Native American leaders, whom reached out to Charlo, a new playground will be built at NKWusm on August 21.

Charlo informs the public to ëstay tuned’ for upcoming changes. “Check our website for tour dates. If someone can’t come on a designated date, they can always call to schedule a tour.”

NKWusm is also accepting student applications for all grades. The applications can be found on their website, or can be picked up at the school.

For more information on NKWusm call (406) 726-5050, or visit their website at www.salishschool.org.

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