Valerie Shirley (Diné) is an Associate Professor of Indigenous Education in the Department of Teaching, Learning, and Sociocultural Studies and Dean’s Fellow for Indigenous Education in the College of Education at the University of Arizona (UArizona). She is also a co-founding Director of the Indigenous Teacher Education Program (ITEP) which prepares Indigenous teachers to critically examine western schooling structures and to be intentional in infusing Indigenous knowledges, philosophies, and languages into learning spaces. As an Indigenous Diné woman and scholar, Dr. Shirley has worked to center Diné principles and practices within every aspect of her personal and professional roles and responsibilities. During her time at UArizona, she has worked to honor the important process of relationship building to advance Indigenous educational initiatives that support teacher preparation and curriculum development within Indigenous communities. Developing community partnerships from such practices are critical in supporting the programs and schools serving Native students and are essential in envisioning and reinforcing Indigenous sovereignty and Native nation-building efforts. Much of Dr. Shirley’s work draws on critical Indigenous theories to inform curriculum and pedagogy, not only with teacher candidates, but also with current teachers. She has worked with ITEP teacher candidates, Hopi teachers, and teachers at the STAR School to develop curriculum grounded in Indigenous contexts related to environmental and social justice efforts.
Dr. Shirley received her Ph.D. in Curriculum Studies from Purdue University and M.S. degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Upon receiving her B.A. degree in Elementary Education from Arizona State University, she taught in two elementary schools located in two Indigenous communities in Arizona. She is a member of the Diné Nation (Ma’iideeshgizhinii, Tsinaajinni, Todich’iinii and Honaghaanii clans) which continues to shape her research and pedagogical interests. As such, her previous research work engaged Diné youth in the process of decolonization to critically examine their identities in relation to history and the Diné epistemology. Prior to her arrival at the UA, she worked with diverse preservice teachers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Purdue University. Her research interests are within the areas of critical Indigenous pedagogy, social justice pedagogy, youth empowerment, curriculum development, teacher education and Indigenous education.
Dr. Shirley’s current work is centered on mobilizing decolonial praxis and resurgence through critical Indigenous theories and pedagogies with Indigenous youth, teachers, and teacher candidates. Her recent publications are a co-edited book titled Indigenizing education: Transformative research, theories, and praxis (2022); a journal article titled Grounding Indigenous teacher education in red praxis (2021), and a book chapter titled Enacting Indigenous research methods: Centering Diné epistemology to guide the process (2019).