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COMIC: Pueblo Tribal Teacher On The Difficulty Of Getting Students Online

"When the pandemic first hit, we had about 25% Internet connectivity. The infrastructure was in its beginning stages." Lori Chavez, middle school social studies teacher, Kewa Pueblo, N.M.

It's been a year since teachers were handed an unprecedented request: Educate students in entirely new ways amid the backdrop of a pandemic. In this comic series, we'll illustrate one teacher's story each week from now until the end of the school year.

Episode 2

Lori Chavez, a middle school social studies teacher in Kewa Pueblo, N.M., discusses the importance of staying connected to your community during lockdown.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

My school is within Bernalillo Public Schools; however, we are a uniquely 100% tribally enrolled school. We are tightknit.
It was stressful for our students not to have Internet connectivity when other students in our district — in nontribal communities — did. We were hand-delivering paper packets to our students each week.
Over the summer, it was a mad dash to get everyone connected. We had to train our elder members how to work a computer! One elder grandma, when seeing the Internet for the first time, said:  "I swear it's like some sort of sorcery!
Through grants, fundraising and our own "geek squad," we were able to get about 80% of homes connected by the end of August, which means our students are now all virtual. This was really a huge feat. I never thought it would happen in 10 years!
Most of us live in multigeneration homes, so I see Papi walking across the background to get coffee or little siblings on laps. ... I am really teaching the whole family.
But many of my students are not on camera. There is some stigma in our community about what it means to your energy when you are on camera.
Mentally, I feel like I can overcome anything now. But emotionally, it has been really hard. Our tribal communities have been impacted really hard. We have lost so many influential elders.
I created "Feeling Fridays" for our students to come together and share through poems, songs and art what they need to express to remember those we've lost.
Our school is on our ancestral land, and those souls remain here. We want to honor our people always and tell stories of who they were so no one forgets.