Date of Award

January 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Pauline Stonehouse


This qualitative study examined shared experiences of teachers who remain at American Indian schools teaching for five years or more in an attempt to help administrators understand what factors impact a teacher’s decision to stay. Teachers, regardless of their race or gender, who have worked at an American Indian school for five years or longer, were interviewed. The teachers were recruited to participate in this study through their superintendent/principals and personal contacts. The theoretical framework used to guide this study was a social support model studied by LaRocco, House, and French in 1980. They examined the effect of perceived social support on stressful work situations. This support could come from different sources and through different modes. Teacher retention has been a concern for many years especially in schools with students living in areas of high-poverty and high minority rates. American Indian schools fit this profile of high-poverty and high minority rates as well as having families and students who suffer from historical trauma. With American Indian schools having what could be considered a tough population to work with, finding what experiences impact teachers’ desires to remain at American Indian schools could benefit the students, schools, and communities. Three themes (relationships, communication, and race) emerged from the data and overlapped one another. Race and communication impacted the relationships teachers developed with their students, colleagues, students’ parents or guardians, and administrators. These relationships, especially the relationships with the students and colleagues, were deep and lasting. The relationships were strengthened through stress, uncertainty, and chaos described by the participants. It was through these relationships participants were able to continue working in situations that caused them to feel as though they lacked the skills and knowledge of effective teachers and question their ability to the job as they had been trained to do.

Keywords: American Indian schools, teacher retention, social support model, administrators, poverty, minority, race