Shiprock teacher confirmed as member of Navajo Nation Board of Education

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
The Health, Education and Human Services Committee confirmed Andrea Thomas, left center, on Nov. 25 to serve on the Navajo Nation Board of Education.

FARMINGTON — A teacher from the Central Consolidated School District was confirmed as a member to the Navajo Nation Board of Education.

The Health, Education and Human Service Committee confirmed Andrea Thomas, who teaches at Mesa Elementary School in Shiprock, on Nov. 25 to serve a six-year term on the Board of Education.

The board oversees the operation of all schools serving the tribal land, either directly or by joint power agreement, memorandum of understanding, cooperative agreement or other intergovernmental documentation.

Thomas has been with the school district for seven years and is a member of various groups that center on education, including the New Mexico Teacher Evaluation Task Force, an entity under the New Mexico Public Education Department.

She wrote in an email that she decided to apply for the teacher representative seat after numerous conversations with tribal President Jonathan Nez about improving the quality of education offered to Diné students.

"During these conversations I communicated my belief that for too long teachers have been left out of the conversation when decisions are made, which in turn impacts teachers who are at the front line every day," Thomas said.

Mesa Elementary School Teacher Andrea Thomas spoke about her path to becoming a teacher during the Education is Our Human Right Forum on April 11, 2019 at the Phil L. Thomas Performing Arts Center in Shiprock.

She said she believes that teachers need better support, with high quality professional development that will help enhance their teaching, which will help increase the educational outcome for students.

"As a member of the board I hope to bring a current classroom teacher perspective into the conversation as decisions are being made to improve and strengthen our Diné education system," she said.

She added that she hopes to help support and encourage collaboration with teachers working in public and Bureau of Education schools on the Navajo Nation.

"Our students should not have to leave their communities to have access to a better education, we need to find ways to improve the schools, and this begins by improving the systems set in place," Thomas said.

The board consists of 11 members, with five members elected from each of the five agencies. Six members are named by appointment from the tribal president and confirmed by the Health, Education and Human Service Committee, a unit of the Navajo Nation Council.

The committee also confirmed Henry Fowler, Joan Gray and Spencer Willie on Nov. 25.

Fowler has been a teacher for more than 20 years and currently is the dean of graduate studies at Navajo Technical University in Crownpoint.

He is also co-founder of Navajo Math Circles, a program for students that promotes solving mathematical problems by using creative techniques and critical-thinking skills.

Gray and Willie will serve as parent representatives on the board.

Gray is a parent and grandparent of children and grandchildren who attend the Kayenta Unified School District in Arizona.

Her resume states that she is a social studies teacher for seventh- and eighth-grade students at the Kayenta Boarding School in Kayenta, Arizona.

Willie is a parent of four children who attend schools on the Navajo Nation.

In his career, he has worked in government relations, including stints in education with Rough Rock Community School, Utah State University and Navajo Head Start.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at

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