Heart of the Community
When the Foundation put words to our fifth value, Building Community, we were trying to capture the connection between our students and their communities, as well as our local economy. When donors invest in our students, those same students go on to support and invest in their families, local communities, and district.
Those words, Building Community, take on new meaning when you hear Christina Hardwick’s story.
Christina’s expertise is in language revitalization. She’s an educator at the 3rd-5th grade level with the Salish School of Spokane. The Salish School of Spokane’s work is in revitalizing the Colville – Okanagan dialect of the Salish language so that the language is not lost. The school creates an immersive education program - from early childhood education to high school - where students study, read, write, and speak in their language. Christina, for example, teaches her 4th grade math group in Salish, only using English if something needs to be additionally explained. Her students read English books, but they’ll discuss what they read in Salish, and they’ll write responses in both languages.
“This is my dream career,” Christina said.
Christina started her early childhood education program at Spokane Falls Community College as part of her professional development goals with the Salish School of Spokane.
“I was doing one class at a time while I worked, but I enjoyed it. So then I started taking two to three at a time, all while working full-time.”
She liked that she could attend classes online, so that she could balance her other responsibilities, and that the campus was local when she needed to be there. Plus, there were great scholarship programs available. Her last scholarship award even paid for her entire last class and textbook.
“It was peace of mind, because I didn’t have to worry about anything.” Christina said. “Donors don’t really see how much they help out, but there are people who are really appreciative and grateful. I think they’d be proud to see me graduate with honors.”
Christina finished her program at the end of 2021, but she hopes to continue her education at Eastern Washington University next year. She even inspired her family through her education. Christina is a mom of two, and her son has said in the past that he wasn’t really sure he’d go to college. Now, seeing Christina’s hard work, he’s changing his mind.
“Being a role model for my kids is the most rewarding thing,” she said.
She’s also excited to dive into her work at the Salish School thanks to her degree.
“You can’t save a language without teaching it.”
The work requires a lot of time management. In her work at the Salish School, she also has to be in class herself for set periods of time. While studying the Colville – Okanogan language, there are six-plus language levels in which to become profcient. Christina is now working in the seventh level where she listens to and translates the stories of tribal elders. She creates children’s books for the school, where she translates the stories into English and formats the works into books for the classroom. And she is developing some grammar curriculum, focusing on transitive and intransitive verbs.
“I’m also working on curriculum for our top level of language learners. I’ve listened to some elders in Canada telling stories, and I typed the stories out in Salish, then translated them to English.”
While she’s teaching full-time and working through these projects, Christina also does other language revitalization work. She’s currently developing some curriculum work for the Kalispel Tribe’s language department. When she was living in Usk, WA, she was learning the language and studied all the language levels available.
Christina’s work more than captures what it means to build community; her work is revitalizing community. It’s important and captures the bigger picture of what our students accomplish through their own dedication and talents.