Dr. Tarajean Yazzie-Mintz (Diné) Named 2020 Brock Prize in Education Innovation Laureate

Published On: November 14th, 2019By

Dr. Tarajean Yazzie-Mintz (Diné), founder and principal consultant at First Light Education Project and former vice president for program initiatives at the American Indian College Fund in Denver, Colorado, has been named the 2020 Brock Prize in Education Innovation Laureate. Dr. Yazzie-Mintz was selected from among nine prestigious nominees for this year’s Prize by a panel of nine jurors who convened in Tulsa in October to determine this year’s Laureate.

Through her leadership and vision in overseeing Wakanyeja (“Sacred Little Ones”) Early Childhood Education Initiative, Dr. Yazzie-Mintz has positively impacted the lives of more than 4,000 children, 3,000 families, and 1,200 teachers in Indigenous communities. This initiative emphasizes the sacredness of children within Indigenous communities and works to ensure that those who educate and care for them are trained and supported in ways that honor and respect cultural, social, and emotional needs.

Dr. Yazzie-Mintz was nominated for the Prize by Dr. Susan C. Faircloth, professor and director of the School of Education at Colorado State University. Dr. Faircloth commented, “Tarajean has a brilliant mind and a generous heart. She approaches her work in Indigenous and early childhood education with grace, humility, and humor. This award is a testament to the positive impact she has and continues to have on Indigenous peoples and communities across this nation.”

The Brock Prize, currently in its 19th year, has been awarded to many giants in education whose ideas have transformed the landscape of modern education. It is the chief objective of the Prize to highlight these ideas to the broader education community, and in doing so, magnify the impact they can have around the world.

“We are extremely honored that Dr. Yazzie-Mintz is our 2020 Laureate,” said Brock Prize founder, John A. Brock. “Her work in Indigenous education is both innovating and far-reaching, and its impact will continue to grow over time.”

Dr. Yazzie-Mintz will be formally honored in Norman, Oklahoma at the annual Brock Prize Symposium in spring of 2020, at which she will be the featured speaker. In addition to the monetary award of $40,000, Dr. Yazzie-Mintz will receive a vellum certificate denoting the honor and a sculpture of legendary Native American educator Sequoyah.

In reaction to her selection as the 2020 Laureate, Dr. Yazzie-Mintz offered the following response.

“The Brock Prize presents a vital opportunity for us to celebrate what can be achieved across Indian Country. With those who work from within Indigenous communities, I celebrate the entire journey – from incubation of our ideas, our ambitious dreams, to our first steps in making change happen, to mapping out our next system in the life-long work of transforming our communities to be strong, culturally grounded, and vibrant. I am thankful for the opportunity to share what powerful change looks like, from our littlest ones to our elders – and I am inspired by the hope that we will continue to walk forward, one step at a time.

Recognition does not come easy for many of us who work from within historically, socially, and politically under-represented and under-resourced communities. It takes visionary advocacy and grounded strength to turn heads to witness change – even in its budding form. An award like the Brock Prize is not possible without visionary advocacy, nor without strength and powerful presence. In that light, I want to thank Dr. Susan Faircloth, for stewarding this nomination to award.

As I harness my emotions and stand and witness the meaning of this award without shaking, I am strengthened by being wrapped in celebration by colleagues, families, teachers and communities. I prepare myself for the increased responsibility that an award like the Brock Prize places before me. And, I am deeply honored to be selected as the 2020 Brock Prize Laureate.”

For more information about the Brock Prize in Education Innovation or the 2020 Brock Prize Symposium, go to www.brockprize.org, or contact Brock Prize Executive Director, Dr. Ed Harris, at ed.harris@okstate.edu.