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Reservation Made for Learning

Alumna moves west to teach Indigenous children

When Sidney Tuttle, ’19, lost her job in a museum during the early months of the pandemic, she posted on Facebook seeking new opportunities. A response from a Bridgewater State professor proved to be life-altering.

The English professor, Dr. Joyce Rain Anderson, suggested Tuttle apply to teach on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Tuttle got the position, moved 1,600 miles west for the 2020-2021 school year and hasn’t left.

“I think that really speaks to Bridgewater as a community,” said Tuttle, who now teaches Lakota fifth graders at Red Cloud Indian School. “It’s a small enough school that you really feel loved and cared for by staff, but not so small that you don’t have incredible opportunities.”

It was one such opportunity that first introduced Tuttle to Red Cloud. For a decade, BSU has partnered with the Indigenous community in Pine Ridge. Bridgewater welcomes Pine Ridge students for summer programs and as full-time college students. And Anderson and other faculty (accompanied by BSU students) regularly visit Red Cloud to run professional development for teachers.

Tuttle learned about the trips from her peers and approached Anderson about attending.

“What really struck me the first time I came out here was the sense of community,” said Tuttle, who majored in English and minored in U.S. ethnic and Indigenous studies. “It felt really comfortable.”

Red Cloud serves an area where almost half of residents live below the federal poverty line. Despite economic challenges and the long history of oppression Indigenous people face, Tuttle sees a community that truly cares about its children and their culture. The school is even focused on teaching the Lakota language.

Tuttle first served at Red Cloud through the AmeriCorps program. Then she pursued a master’s degree in education at Creighton University through a program in which students simultaneously teach at Red Cloud. This year, she is working directly for the school.

“I love my kids with my whole heart,” said Tuttle, who has also assisted with curriculum development and driven a school bus. “I really, really care about them and their families.”

Tuttle had the unique experience of teaching the same group of students across multiple years as she moved up in grade levels with them. And BSU English and education professors have offered advice and encouragement just as they did when Tuttle was an undergraduate.

“They pushed me to get out of my comfort zone and run with it,” she said of faculty such as Drs. Anderson, Lee Torda, Allyson Ferrante and Jeanne Carey Ingle.  

Now Tuttle has found a new home in South Dakota that shares many of the traits she appreciated about BSU.  

“Bridgewater taught me the value of strong relationships and sharing and collaboration in a community,” she said.

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