Staff and Student Spotlight

Featuring outstanding students from our Indian Education Program and Tacoma Public Schools.

January 2019

Student spotligh: Rita Nowlin

Lincoln High School

Nowlin_Rita_Cropped.jpgName:  Rita Nowlin

Tribal Affiliation: Oglala Sioux Tribe of the Pine Ridge Reservation

School:  Lincoln High School

Grade:  9th

GPA:  2.93

Sports:  Lincoln Girls' Basketball C-Team & JV player

Other:  Rita represents District 4 - East side of Tacoma as a participant of the Mayor's Youth Engagement Task Force.

Rita is dedicated to her academics as well as to being a basketball player.

Her future goals are to graduate high school and attend a 4-year college.  She wants to play in the WNBA and become a veterinarian as she also has a love for animals.

March 2018

Teacher Spotlight: Bertina Kelley

Manitou Park Elementary

Teacher Title 1, & Teacher Representative, Indian Education Program


                                                                                                                                                                                                                              BERTINA KELLEY.jpg

Greetings! My name is Bertina Kelley. I am a Title I teacher at Manitou Park Elementary.  I am enrolled Tlingit, however, I am also, Athabaskan, Iroquois and Cherokee. I am fortunate to have a grandmother who is 100% Native American and still alive and well! She is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to Tlingit history and our old ways.  My husband is Potawatomi, so our children (all girls-ages 18, 13 and 5) are also a nice mix of many tribes. 

 I was born and raised in Tacoma; living most of my childhood on the Puyallup Reservation where a large part of my family still resides. I am honored to be foster parent for our Native youth and encourage more Native families to consider this.  I attended Tacoma Public Schools as a child and was fortunate enough to start my teaching career here in 1999. 

I want people to have a better understanding of what is means to be Native American and be educated about our true history.  We are not extinct, not stereotypes and not mascots. We are many different tribes of many different skin colors and many different traditions.  We are here, we have always been here and we are here to stay! 

Student Spotlight

Sincerelee Ellis

Downing Elementary, 2nd Grade

Darien Ellis

Downing Elementary, 4nd Grade




            Both Sincere and Darien Ellis are Tlingit/Tsimpsian and belong to the T'akdeintaa'n Clan. Their clan symbols are represented by Raven and Sea Pidgeon (seagull). They come from the Raven's Nest House in Honnah, Alaska and are part of the Tlingit and Haida tribe, from SE Alaska. 

            Sincere loves to dance and sing, make arts and crafts and is very involved in Girl Scouts. Sincere is currently a Fancy dancer for powwows. Sincere is also currently student of the month at Downing Elementary.

            Darien loves to read and drum, loves learning about his elders and drawing native art.  During powwow he is a Grass Dancer and looks forward to being first to dance as he gets to honor our history and to help stomp down the grass for the other dancers. Darien is always in motion. 

            Sincere and Darien are pictured in Powwow regalia and coastal regalia.

Photos of Sincere and Darien are credited to Chandra Marqueza