A clear vision for the future

New Ute Mountain education director excited for opportunity

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Tanya Amrine is the new education director on the Ute Mountain Ute reservation. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Tanya Amrine is the new education director on the Ute Mountain Ute reservation.

Tanya Amrine has a vision for the future.

Amrine recently was hired as the Ute Mountain Ute Education Division director.

Amrine, who grew up in Cortez and is half Navajo and half Caucasion, is excited about the opportunity.

She oversees 49 employees on the Towaoc reservation, including a daycare center, Head Start campus and five school advocates who work with Ute Mountain Ute youth in the Montezuma-Cortez School District.

The Ute Mountain Ute Education Division covers a number of types of education, including general, special, early childhood, adult, college, and alternative.

Amrine, 40, graduated from Montezuma-Cortez High School in 1990 as Tanya Taylor. She came on board July 30 and is still learning her new position since it was vacant for a year and a half.

There’s “a lot of nuts and bolts work right now,” she said. She said she’s currently occupied with the department’s infrastructure.

Eventually she will focus more on higher education issues and building a collaborative effort with the Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1.

She plans to try to find out what the barriers to education are among Mountain Utes.

Currently, “We don’t know those barriers.”

But she is anxious to work with Re-1 Superintendent Alex Carter and others.

There are some big challenges ahead.

“I’m trying to figure out how to change the dynamic to where it’s a good thing to be recognized as a good student and a good athlete,” she said.

Specifically, Amrine plans to focus on family literacy, tutoring and building the distance education offerings on the reservation. One can currently obtain a doctorate through online and video classes offered through Utah State University in Blanding. That program, facilitated through the Unlimited Learning Center in Cortez and Navajo Technical College in Crown Point, N.M., is “in its infancy.”

“What I’m doing has a direct connection to the community I live in,” she said, noting her family lives in Cortez, including her husband Terry, who is an electrician, and her sons, Marcus, 14, and Bradley, 12, who attend Cortez Middle School. Amrine’s mother, Linda Taylor, also lives in Cortez.

Amrine’s experience in the education field includes time as a preschool teacher, elementary teacher, early childhood program coordinator, and a school principal. She also has experience in family literacy and adult education and spent time as a math and reading coach.

The Fort Lewis College and University of Northern Colorado graduate has worked in Cortez, Shiprock and Beclabito, N.M., and Teec Nos Pos, Ariz. She’s thankful that she doesn’t have to commute as far now.

“There is a lot of potential here,” she said. “I’m enjoying myself because in previous jobs I had a lot of constraints. I have the support of the tribal council and my staff to think ‘outside the box’ to provide services.