Arlene Old Elk
Arlene Old Elk was born in Ganado, AZ and grew up on the Navajo reservation in the Forest Lake community. Her clans are Tł’izí lání (Manygoats Clan) born for 'Áshįįhi (Salt People Clan) and her maternal grandfather's is Tódích’íi’nii (Bitterwater Clan) and her paternal grandfather's is Hashk’ąą hadzohí (Yucca Fruit Clan). She has been in the Valley for over 25 years and is currently an adjunct professor of Native American studies at both Mesa and Chandler-Gilbert community colleges. She received a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from ASU in Tempe and has a master’s degree in Bilingual Multicultural Education and Counseling from NAU in Flagstaff. She has taught courses in Conversational Navajo, Navajo Government, American Indian Studies, Native American Pride and Awareness, and Intro to American Indian History. Currently, she teaches NAV115 (Conversational Navajo) at MCC, AIS110 (Navajo Government) at CGCC, and NAV101 (Navajo Language) at SMCC. Additionally, she serves as a liaison and instructor for the early college program called Hoop of Learning, which serves local high school students who are taking college courses.
Previously, she worked for both the Scottsdale Unified and Washington Elementary School districts as a teacher, Native American specialist, and a program specialist, advocating for student support services and supervising a program to improve elementary education for Phoenix youth. She helped develop a hands-on Native American curriculum in collaboration with the Heard Museum that is used state-wide by Arizona educators. She has also written Native American children’s books and has spent numerous hours serving on committees to advocate for Indian education. As such she is a member of the AIEA (Arizona Indian Education Association), the NIEA (National Indian Education Association), and the AZ Dept. of Education’s Social Studies Committee.
She enjoys meeting, interacting, and teaching all students interested in learning about Native American cultures and her commitment to the education of young people has touched the lives of every level of education, from elementary to college. Arlene is very appreciative for the teachings of her parents who taught her the Navajo culture and its philosophies of respecting Mother Earth while valuing all people as members of a larger family. Her own family consists of two children, both of whom attended SCC. Her son is currently pursuing a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management. Her love of teaching the Navajo language manifests itself in the relationships she has formed with her students and she is a strong advocate for updating Arizona history to include the true stories of its Native populations. With a passion for student engagement and a love of family and sharing her culture, she is a valuable member of the faculty at Mesa Community College.