ORLANDO — As a child, Jennie Shore never attended a conventional school. She lived in the
camp of her grandfather George Osceola, who wouldn’t send her to school because he wanted her to speak both Creek and Mikasuki so she could carry the languages on.
“So here I am today, teaching the language for 30 years or so and I’m still teaching it,” Shore said.
An instructor in the Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School immersion program, Shore was honored Oct. 6 as Elder of the Year at the 48th annual National Indian Education Association’s convention in Orlando.
One of the original ‘grandmothers’ and a founder of PECS, Shore was bestowed with the honor before a crowd of more than 350 educators at the NIEA award luncheon.
“Your commitment to lifelong learning and the survival of Native languages is to be commended,” wrote NIEA president Yatibaey Evans in a congratulatory letter. “You are a testament to the strength and importance of our elders and an excellent example of how elders can continue to create new avenues to ensure future generations have a connection to our past.”
A video of Shore speaking about her experiences was played prior to her receiving the award.
“I spent a lot of years teaching words and phrases to students, but not speaking fluently. Then we started a language immersion program and I just kept talking to the kids fluently waiting for them to talk back to me. Finally they started talking back to me. When the little students started talking to each other in the language, I knew my teaching was working,” she said.
Shore joined the immersion program at its inception two years ago. Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola Jr. congratulated her in a letter sent to NIEA.
“Her selection as recipient of the award only speaks to her dedication and commitment to our Tribe, not only to our youth but also to the survival of our Seminole language. She has worked tirelessly to show the youth the importance of our language and culture. Some of those same students today serve in leadership roles for the Seminole Tribe of Florida,” wrote Chairman Osceola.
Brighton Councilman Andrew Bowers Jr. acknowledged Shore’s contributions to the Tribe and thanked her in a letter. He recognized her work implementing a culture and language pull-out program for Tribal students attending local elementary schools and the establishment of PECS, its culture program and the immersion program.
“I have watched for many years as you gave yourself for the children and adults of our Tribe in many ways. You have been there for the children, teaching them how to be Seminole Indians. When others have retired or moved on, you have remained to carry on your role as the teacher to many and of many things,” Councilman Bowers wrote.
A soft-spoken woman, Shore didn’t speak when she ascended the stage to receive the award; the video spoke for her.
“You need to know who you are before you can teach others. Know your language and traditions, know where your students are coming from so you can teach them good and consider all of their backgrounds before you teach them something,” Shore said.