Students from the Tlingit culture, language and literacy program at Harborview Elementary School dance in front of elders during the program’s in early February. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)

Students from the Tlingit culture, language and literacy program at Harborview Elementary School dance in front of elders during the program’s in early February. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)

District selects first full-time principal for the Tlingit culture, language and literacy program

Eldri Westmoreland is set to fill the position starting in July.

As the Juneau School District’s Tlingit Culture, Language and Literacy program prepares to expand its reach to students up to the eighth-grade level beginning in the fall, the district announced Thursday it has selected Eldri Westmoreland as the program’s first full-time principal.

[Tlingit language and culture program expands its reach]

For more than 20 years, the Tlingit Culture, Language and Literacy Program at Harborview Elementary has offered students in kindergarten to the fifth grade in the Juneau School District a place-based “school within a school” where the Tlingit language and culture are integrated into daily class instruction.

Westmoreland was selected after a nationwide search for candidates and is a well-known figure both in the district and the Indigenous language and culture revitalization community in Juneau as she currently serves as a culturally responsive instructional coach, mathematics teacher and STEAM-ethnomathematics mentor teacher/curriculum developer for the district.

In addition, Westmoreland is the owner and director of Math Raven, an Indigenous education research and curriculum firm, along with serving as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Alaska Southeast. She is a Ph.D.student in Indigenous studies education from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, a Master of Arts in mathematics education from Western Governors University in Missouri and a Bachelor of Science in education from the University of Central Oklahoma.

Molly Box, the outgoing interim principal at TCLL said she’s “beyond thrilled” to see Westmoreland fill the position.

“I think she’s amazing. I couldn’t think of a better fit for TCLL and our entire team was just blown away by her interview — we’re overwhelmed with excitement to have her working with us,” Box said. “She knows the culture, she’s lived the culture and it’s like the stars have aligned and the perfect person has found her way to TCLL.”

Box, who is a former Harborview Elementary School principal who came out of retirement to temporarily fill the TCLL position, said she is set to depart from her position after the hiring for the new middle school staff is complete, which she expects to happen in mid-June. However, even though she might be retiring for the second time, “They won’t get rid of me too easily,” she said, laughing.

Box said she intends to remain active with the TCLL program, working in whatever capacity is helpful to the program alongside the Sealaska Heritage Institute.

“I mean, who doesn’t love retirement? but TCLL has a very special place in my heart and it’s such an amazing team of humans — it’s been so special,” she said. “It feels so great knowing that I’ll be leaving with it in such great hands and with a person who will be a strong principal and a person who is ready to lead.”

Outgoing Superintendent Bridget Weiss agreed and said she’s “excited for the future” of TCLL under Westmoreland’s leadership.

“I am just thrilled that Eldri considered the leadership position,” Weiss said. “It is a really nice match for her background, skills, interests and passions and the needs of a growing program like TCLL.”

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651)-528-1807.

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