Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction American Indian Studies Consultant David O’Connor will receive a national award recognizing the impact his work has had on students and educators across the state.
O’Connor, a member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (Ojibwe), will be honored by the National Education Association with the 2022 Leo Reano Memorial Award. Each year, the Leo Reano Memorial Award is presented to an individual or a group who has made significant contributions in American Indian/Alaska Native affairs and education. The award presentation will take place at the 2022 NEA Human and Civil Rights Award Dinner on July 2 in Chicago, IL.
“It’s truly humbling to receive this award from the NEA,” O’Connor said. “While it may have my name on it, I attribute it to everyone I’ve had the opportunity to work with. It’s because of those people and the relationships I’ve formed with them that I have been successful in the work that I do.”
As an American Indian studies consultant for over 10 years, O’Connor has assisted with the implementation of curriculum in schools across Wisconsin in the areas of American Indian histories, cultures, and tribal sovereignty, often referred to as Wisconsin Act 31. His work with schools, libraries and others aims to provide training opportunities, develop and disseminate materials, and provide consultation on issues related to American Indian Studies, and the education of Native American students.
Through the hundreds of workshops he offers each year, O’Connor encourages educators to not only teach “about” cultures, but to “teach culturally.” He emphasizes the importance of integrating and infusing the histories and cultures of the Indigenous nations and tribal communities of Wisconsin throughout the year.
“I always tell teachers, when you tell those stories, tell your own story, too,” O’Connor said. “We all have stories, and I think it’s important to model that strategy.”
In addition to his work in Wisconsin, O’Connor also supports educators on the national level through presentations with different organizations such as the National Indian Education Association (NIEA). In October 2021, O’Connor received the NIEA’s Educator of the Year award for his contributions.
“David is a keen education professional who engages hearts and minds in unmasking the pain in the Native American community, and presents joy and boldness, especially when it comes to our youth and educators,” E-Ben Grisby, member of the Wisconsin Education Association Council’s Human and Civil Rights Committee, said in a letter nominating O’Connor for the award.
Congratulations, David, on yet another astounding achievement, and thank you for your tireless work!