Contribution by Julie Simpson, Lead ECEAP Teacher, Salish School of Spokane

Julie started learning language when she worked at Inchelium Head Start around 2003 as an Early Childhood Education (ECE) Teacher. The Colville Confederated Tribes had an Administration for Native Americans (ANA) language grant, and the Language Program partnered with the Head Start Program to teach ECE Teachers the nslxcin language. The classes were taught by LaRae Wiley and the goal was to move toward immersion classrooms within the Head Start Program.

A few years later Julie’s husband passed away and she moved to Spokane to take a break. After 6 months, LaRae Wiley heard she was in Spokane and asked Julie to work for her at the Salish School of Spokane. Julie says, “At that moment, when Scott passed away, I was grasping for something to hang onto. The language gave me that rope to hang onto something. LaRae caught me at the right moment. It saved my life.” 

Teaching immersion was new to Julie, but once she was able to see how quickly the children learned she thought it was the coolest thing. She was happy to see that the children, “were able to know, at an early age, who they are.” Julie enjoys watching the kids learn a new word and use it and how their eyes light up. “The more they learn, the more you can see a change in them. To see them use those words, it’s just amazing.”

To Julie, language is just who she is. It’s part of her, her soul and spirit. nslxcin gives her a sense of identity and grounds her.