Uti Yamassee Cleveland, Elementary Teacher

Uti Cleveland

My name, Uti Yamassee, means Gentle Earth in Creek Seminole. Its sentiment has guided me, as your given name is meant too. My career as an educator centers on a desire to work with underrepresented and historically impacted communities. In the past years I have sought out teaching positions that center on alternative schooling models with a goal of learning best practices that may work to better my communities, the Native and African American communities. I have come to understand that the underlying historical inequity of the traditional school system has had a pervasive imprint on students; the overwhelming feeling that they do not deserve to be well educated. This notion is heartbreaking and drives me forward professionally.

I received a degree in Anthropology from the University of California Santa Cruz, a Master’s in Education from the University of Southern California, and am a WA Charter School Association’s Aspiring Leaders Fellow. I have worked as a Native Education Title VII worker for Puget Sound Educational Services District, as a coordinator for the National Urban Indian Family Coalition and with First Place School who provides education and family supportive services to the most vulnerable students dealing with homelessness, poverty and/or trauma. As a founding board member I helped in developing First Place Scholars, Washington States first charter school. Importantly, I still remain in the classroom teaching in a Title 1 elementary school with Seattle Public Schools. In the future I look forward to pursuing my PhD researching Native American student learning, specifically developing best practices that address the widening achievement gap for Native learners, bringing attention to the deplorable number of misclassifications that track Native learners into special education.