Lori Mueller, an elementary teacher at Bowler Elementary, consistently seeks new ways to deepen her collaboration with the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of the Mohican Indians community.

Bowler Elementary Principal Kathy DeLorme described Mueller as a bridge between the school and neighboring First Nation. Mueller’s instruction includes tribal training partnerships during the summer and having her classes team with the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of the Mohicans to illustrate books.

Mueller recognizes the importance of involving First Nations communities in the selection of Native American literature at schools. In 2012, she won a grant to expand her existing classroom library featuring Native American literature to develop new, culturally appropriate and authentic, Native American literature for grades three and four.

She stresses the importance of community-based programs in education. “The Stockbridge-Munsee Community has been a wonderful place to find Native American literature, and I have been very fortunate and blessed to have such helpful people as I go on this journey.”

Mueller invites tribal elders into her classroom, an experience that impacts her students beyond the classroom. She also leads a variety of activities with her students including one called “Wax Museum.” During this lesson, students write a biographical speech, which they recite when they “come alive” as the person they are portraying, some of who are Native Americans.

For her own continuing professional development, Mueller has attended several Wisconsin Indian Education Association conferences and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s American Indian Studies Summer Institute. She writes, “I am not Native American, but I want to learn and share anything I can that will benefit my students.”

Her innovative teaching was recognized when Mueller received a 2010 Herb Kohl Fellowship from the Kohl Foundation.