|Longtime Grove teacher Lona Hampton has been named the Oklahoma Indian Educator of the Year by the Oklahoma Council for Indian Education. Joan Spade, who has worked in Indian Education for more than 20 years at Grove, was named Elder of the Year. Both recently were honored at the council's conference in Tulsa.
Hampton, who is of Cherokee and Blackfeet descent, serves as the Native American Culture teacher at Grove Middle School and also teaches Cherokee language and culture. She has taught for more than 40 years.
"There is no person more interested in helping promote Native American culture in the school system than Lona," said John Ann Thompson, the Indian Education director at Grove Schools. "She is the perfect example of an OCIE Indian Educator."
Hampton has been instrumental in Grove's success in Cherokee Nation competitions, including the Challenge Bowl and Language Bowl. She sponsors the Native American Performing Arts Troupe, that traveled to Hawaii to visit a school and trade cultural information. The troupe also marched in the opening parade of the Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.
Spade serves as Grove's bilingual cultural resource specialist and tutor. She is a full-blood Cherokee who workers to teach students the "Indian" way. She teaches Cherokee language for Hampton's Native American classes and serves as a coach on the Challenge and Language Bowl teams.
"Joan is always willing to share traditional information with others so that they can know about their ancestors," Thompson said. "What makes Joan a perfect choice for Elder of the Year is her ability to teach and share her Cherokee knowledge with all ages."
Thompson said when nominating both Hampton and Spade that they could have retired years ago, but both see the need to help mentor young Indian students in Grove and teach them the Cherokee language and customs.
The two awards come right after the Grove's Johnson-O'Malley Indian Education program earned a national award as the exemplary school program for region 3.