Today, I sat down with former BEMER director Kim Nissen Stanger about her past experiences working at Lake Roosevelt. Kim Nissen was born in Coulee Dam, later raised on a ranch in Nespelem by her parents and her five brothers and sisters. Stanger originally attended school in Nespelem before enrolling in Lake Roosevelt. She later met her husband, got married, and had kids. After living in Spokane for several years, she and her family decided to move back to Coulee Dam in 1991 after getting a job at lake Roosevelt.
Tribune: What made you take the position?
Stanger: I started working for the school district as a paraprofessional for the Title VI program in 1999. Over time I took on more duties, and before we opened the new school in 2014-15, the district opened up a Director of Indian Education Position. I applied and got the job. I took it because I knew the need to have someone to pay attention to our Native population.
Tribune: Why did you retire?
Stanger: I decided I wanted to spend more time with my family. My mom needed someone to be with her more, and I want to take the time to do more with my husband, kids, and grandkids. I will miss everyone at school, though I feel like people there are family too.
Tribune: How long were you in that position?
Stanger: I started the Indian Ed Director position when we opened up the new school in 2014-15.
Tribune: What were your goals in that position?
Stanger: One of my main goals when I started working for the district was to give students hope. I remember in 1999, seeing a kid that had been gone a few days, and I said, “Hi, how are you doing?” and he just stared at me like, ‘who are you and why are you asking me that?’. So I got to know him a little bit better, and he told me that he didn’t think anybody would care if he came to school or not. And that stuck with me, like, how important it is to reach out to all students.
I struggled as a student all through school and could see students who worked too. I wanted to help them find resources to be successful. As the director, my goal was to help students find their niche or gift. Not everyone will go to college, but everyone will need to support themselves. Helping students figure that out has always been one of my goals. Another goal that is finally starting to happen is bringing accurate indigenous education to our students. I wanted to see every subject taught incorporate our ways of knowing and doing for our whole school.
Tribune: What are some of your favorite memories from your position?
Stanger: There are so many great memories. It was always fun taking students to the Northwest Indian Youth Conference. Our Cultural Awareness Gathering was something I am proud we started. I still smile, thinking about our Early Out Mondays, where we had fun educational activities for the students. The first year we had the graduating seniors walk through the halls in their cap and gowns, and watching the little kids look at them in awe will always be a favorite memory. Also, seeing how much the staff cares about all students makes me proud.
Tribune: What do you hope for in the future of the position?
Stanger: My hope has always been that when I leave the position, it would be filled with someone who has more academic experience than me, is an advocate for our students, and can work positively to help all people. I am happy to say I think we found that person.
Tribune: What do you plan to do now?
Stanger: I have always been interested in health and wellness. I am a certified Health Coach, and I promote better circulation, which helps our bodies’ cells work better. I want to focus on that. It bothers me a lot to see our people not live their best life because of poor health.