FORT HALL – Educator Brenda Honena has worn many headpieces in her 18 years working in the Blackfoot School District.
In her years with the district, Honena has worked as a teacher, principal and Indian Education Program Director. This is her first year as the principal and her sixth year as the Indian Education Program Director.
Each role has a different emphasis, Honena said.
As a teacher, she had a classroom. As Indian Education Program Director she works in the middle between students and staff. As a principal, she can create a program specifically to help Fort Hall Elementary students and their families.
“Family structure is big in Indian education,” Honena said, “actually in all aspects in life, not just education.”
“As you integrate the family structure into school, you not only honor the family but you also are bringing in a system the child is familiar with,” she said.
Honena’s goals for the 163 students at Fort Hall Elementary include the following:
Increase the level of parent-family involvement.
Integrating culture and tribal language.
Work with the tribal departments, such as the Fort Hall Fire Department, Four Directions and Second Chance Grace that offers meth prevention training.
This school year, the Shoshone language is taught as part of the after-school program. Blackfoot High School (BHS) Indian Club members are teaching cultural lessons, including dancing.
The last week of September is Native American Week. Fort Hall Elementary students, BHS Indian Club students and their families demonstrated their dances to every school in the Blackfoot School District.
Teachers, students and administrators in the district were able to see a more complete person, not only a student, but also the culture of which each student is a part, she said.
“At the end of the two days, I was exhausted,” Honena said, “but it was a good kind of exhaustion.”
“If I need help, I just ask,” Honena said. “If it’s appropriate and important, family members will come to help.”
For example, Fort Hall Elementary had a two-day “show and share” recently, Honena said.
The first day, each student could bring an item from home that was important to him or her.
On day two, parents and other family members shared.
“One man demonstrated spear fishing to the class,” she said.
Honena is an enrolled member of the Shoshone-Bannack tribe. Her father is a Lemhi Shoshone and her mother is an Eastern Shoshone.
She has two sisters and one brother. Her mother and one sister are also teachers. Honena has two daughters and three grandchildren, plus 163 more [the students at Fort Hall Elementary].
Honena started her higher education at Utah State University. She received her Bachelor of Science in education with an emphasis in family consumer science and math from Idaho State University (ISU).
“I love math,” she said.
Honena also received her Master of Education (M.Ed.) from ISU. A M.Ed. is an administrator’s certification.