Heritage Language teacher Christine Rock named teacher of the year

by Bill Boyle
San Juan Record Editor
Christine Rock, a Heritage Language teacher at Tse’Bii’Nidzisgai Elementary School in Monument Valley, is the 2023 Teacher of the Year for the San Juan School District.
Rock was honored for her work at a March 6 banquet.
Christine has taught Heritage Language for the past three years, after working in preschool, Pre-K and Up-Start programs for nearly 20 years.
She has also been involved as a parent over the years, serving several times as president of the local School Community Council (SCC).
As a member of the SCC, she was involved in the preliminary designs of the new Tse’Bii’Nidzisgai Elementary School, including the design and construction of the beautiful Heritage Language room as the school.
“Little did I know that I would be part of that Heritage Language room,” said Rock.
Christine refers to herself as a “Language Warrior” and says she feels strongly about the importance of preserving the language, explaining, “We are losing our language at a high rate, with just a little over half of us as fluent Native speakers.”
She is known as Asdzàà Zahalaníí on Facebook. It is the nickname her grandparents gave her and means mockingbird. “They said I was always mimicking everything, like a mockingbird,” she explains.
Denece Kitto, the principal at Tse’Bii’Nidzisgai Elementary, said, “Christine is kind, respectful, friendly, patient, professional, and knowledgeable of the Navajo culture. As the Heritage Language teacher, Christine Rock exemplifies the Hozho Way and always walks in beauty.  She loves her students and is proud of her culture and how it enriches all of their lives.  
“Christine exhibits grace and beauty when she teaches students how to speak, dress and apply the teachings of her heritage.  She always greets staff and students each day with her beautiful smile and has a tremendous relationship with our community at large.”
Rock grew up in a hogan on Douglas Mesa with no running water or electricity. She has lived a traditional life tending to livestock, living off the land, studying traditional teachings, and learning basket weaving.
Traditional basket weaving is practiced by many members of the extended Rock family.
She has spent her life in Monument Valley and graduated from Monument Valley High School. Christine raised three children who graduated from MVHS and enjoys being a mother and grandmother.
Rock now moves on to the competition for Utah Teacher of the Year. Superintendent Ron Nielson, and Kaitlyn Lyman, the 2022 Teacher of the Year, delivered keynote speeches at the banquet.
Nielson, who will leave the district in August, discussed the value of public education and how the school district impacted him as a student, teacher and administrator.
A host of hardworking teachers and employees were honored by the school district for their efforts at the banquet.
Employees from the Blanding schools who were honored include Heidi Noyes and Hunter Latham at Blanding Elementary, Tel Walker and MeLisa Christensen at ARL Middle School, and Valena Cody and Kimberlee Baker at San Juan High.
Employees from Montezuma Creek honored include Micah Daniels and Marina Smallcanyon at Montezuma Creek Elementary and Shoshina Harvey and Irene Carter at Whitehorse High School.
Employees from Monticello honored include Sarah English and Laura Shulenbarger at Monticello Elementary and Lynda Boyle and Adriann. Goodwine at Monticello High School.
Employees from Monument Valley honored include Christine Rock and Stephanie Sanders at Tse’Bii’Nidzisgai Elementary and Misty Cly and Kauldrinn Crank at Monument Valley High School.
LeRoy Bedonie and Genevieve Atene were recognized for Navajo Mountain High, while La Sal Elementary employee Sandra Marshall was recognized for her work.
Nicole Wallis and LaQueena Martin were recognized as employees of the year for Bluff Elementary, while District Employees Ashley Cosby, Jennifer Johnson and Steve Duke were also honored.

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