No Reservations: Teachers Who Stay

Elizabeth Dawn Smith, University of Wyoming

Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Masters in Science in Natural Science/Mathematics in the Science and Mathematics Teaching Center at the University of Wyoming, 2013; Masters Committee: Professor Ana Houseal, Chair, Professor Diana Wiig, and Professor Jay Norton


Despite a vast body of research on why teachers choose to leave the education profession, less is known about why teachers choose to stay, and even less is known about the perspective of veteran non-Native teachers teaching in American Indian country. This study captures some of their perspective and reasons for longevity at reservation schools through five qualitative interviews with non-Native teachers averaging fifteen years experience in reservation classrooms. An analysis of these interviews yield the participants own explanations arranged into three common factors that play a part in why they choose to stay: (a) a feeling of acceptance from the school and reservation communities; (b) a sense of appreciation for Native ways of being, knowing, and living; (c) the belief that teachers with their skills, knowledge, and views on social justice are needed more in Indian country. Their stories add a nuance to our understanding of why non-Native teachers choose to stay committed to their students and schools despite the challenges of teaching a culturally diverse and impoverished population. Recommendations for school leaders in Indian country for retaining teachers include a stronger push to provide professional development for attaining knowledge and skills to be successful and feel purposeful in teaching Native populations. This study is part of a growing body of research on why teachers stay in education and will contribute to further research on similar topics.