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AILP Profile: Arlene Tachine

Biographical profile of Penn State American Indian Leadership Program master's student Arlene Tachine

by David Price (January 2010)

Arlene Tachine came to Penn State's American Indian Leadership Program in the College of Education straight from the Navajo Reservation near the small town of Cuba, New Mexico. The rest of her life's journey has been more circuitous.

"I developed a passion for aviation when I was six or seven years old because I lived in a very, very rural environment," Arlene says. "We were still in a horse-drawn wagon. My parents used to drive us to a little trading post that had a single-engine aircraft that brought the supplies in. The man who owned the aircraft was a missionary, James Nelson. One day I got really sick and had to be flown out to the hospital. I remember he strapped me in, and the next thing I saw was the instrument panel lit up like a Christmas, and I fell in love with aviation!"

Because of her passion for aviation, at age eighteen Arlene joined the army as a aviation aircraft technician. Her military tour of duty took her through Germany, Colorado, Virginia, Alabama, Delaware, and Alaska. Then after 9/11, while teaching in New Mexico, she was mobilized to Tallil, Iraq, where she served as a technical inspector, crew chief, and a combat medic. "Two times I nearly didn't make it back to the United States from my mission in Iraq," she relates.

Upon retiring from the Army about three years ago, Arlene rejoined her husband, Alvin, and three daughters on the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico and began teaching secondary students again. She also started graduate studies in Special Education because of her daughter's learning disability in reading. Seeing educational challenges throughout her community, Arlene changed her graduate focus to Educational Leadership.

In the summer of 2008, Arlene researched and applied for the American Indian Leadership Program at Penn State.

"In April 2009 I received an acceptance letter with Dr. Hartman’s signature on it. It was so exciting for me and my family," she says. "I believed it was once in a lifetime chance, so I took out some of my retirement, packed my truck, and moved across country to State College. When I met the American Indian Leadership Program fellow students, it was a privilege, and I was honored to be among the best Native American Indian educators."

After spending a year in central Pennsylvania, Arlene will graduate from the AILP with a master's degree in Educational Leadership in summer 2010. Then she plans to return to New Mexico.

"The people in my community are all proud of me; so when I go back, I will be taking the knowledge and education—what I've seen and heard, the people I've met. I'm going to take it all back to my community, especially to my students," she says. "They're amazing. And the look on their faces! I've sent them pictures of Penn State, and they were like, 'That's so far away. Are you really there?'"

When she returns to the reservation, Arlene says her goal is to make a difference as a school principal: "My motto for a leader is, 'Know the Way, Show the Way, Be the Way!' I want to be a bridge for my students, to fill that gap where their parents never had the opportunity to travel and learn like I did. I want them to ask me questions, and I want to have the answers for them as a leader.

"We cannot do anything about the boundaries of the reservation. The children, their mindset is that they were born on the reservation, and they don't know how to look beyond the reservation and have a vision for the future. My vision for our Native American Indian children is, they can learn to go beyond, take a chance and make something of themselves; they can leave the reservation, they can travel the world and still be able to come home and share their life experiences to others, to give back to their people, like I am doing right now!"