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Waubun-Ogema-White Earth teachers receive special master's degrees

WAUBUN - In a special graduation ceremony May 15 in Waubun, a group of elementary and high school teachers is graduating from college after a 3-year specialized course in their small town.

Students at Waubun-Ogema-White Earth schools will be watching eager grads walk across the stage. But it won't be your typical student under the cap.

Nineteen teachers, anywhere from 20-year veterans to those with just a couple years under their belt will get their master's degree after a three year master's education program at Minnesota State University Moorhead and each class was held in Waubun.

"They came out so it was an opportunity for everybody so they didn't all have to drive to Moorhead," said phy ed teacher David Varriano.

The four hour a week class was catered specifically to teaching in the Waubun area, one of the only areas in the state where the entire county is a Native American reservation.

Waubun has the highest poverty rate in Minnesota, the lowest per capita income and the highest property tax in Mahnomen County. Because of that. some of the problems they have, other schools don't see, Varriano said.

Some of the classes addressed specific student issues like cultural differences and social services and, the importance of a support system.

"Relationship building is huge," said fourth-grade teacher Alicia Schoenborn. "Our students, for them to have someone they can come and talk to,"

The "on the road" education isn't stopping at graduation: teachers will do research studies with the students in the school. To be an example for their students as they take the step to graduation.

One of the teachers says she was planning to go to the cities to get her master's, but instead went through the MSUM program in Waubun. The district Superintendent says the recent grads could help boost enrollment.

The district will go from two or three teachers with master's to more than 20.

Superintendent Mitch Anderson says this can help attract potential students and families to come to the region or stay here. Also, he thinks the continuing education will set an example for the students.