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New Principals and Promising Futures for Three AICSN Schools

by Collin Gortner

The American Indian Catholic Schools Network is a collaborative effort between the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education program and eight Catholic schools that primarily serve Indigenous students. 

This year, three of these institutions are under new leadership, with Tamera Miyasato at Our Lady of Lourdes (Porcupine, South Dakota), Lorraine Reeves at St. Charles Apache (San Carlos, Arizona), and Joalah Webb at St. Mary’s Mission School (Red Lake, Minnesota) serving as first-year principals. These school leaders possess unique journeys to their current roles, and they all have ambitious visions for their schools' futures.

Trajectories to Leadership

Tamera Miyasato
Tamera Miyasato

Tamera Miyasato's journey to educational leadership is interesting and unique. After graduating from the University of Notre Dame in 2008 with a degree in film & television, she embarked on a career in film, working on productions such as "The Blind Side." However, Miyasato's path eventually led her back to her roots in South Dakota, where she and her husband decided to raise their family. It was during this time that Miyasato began contemplating a career in education. In 2014, she made the transition, initially working as a teacher before delving into educational consulting and pursuing a doctorate at the University of South Dakota. Miyasato has strong personal and family ties to Winyan Wakhan Owayawa-Our Lady of Lourdes (OLL). Miyasato was a student at Mahpiya Luta/Red Cloud school, the sister school of OLL, and her mother served as the assistant principal at OLL. This strong connection has been beneficial in her new role, as Miyasato put it, having a community “connection makes such a difference when you are asking staff, students, and families to trust you--not just as a leader but in school transformation.”

Lorraine Reeves' path to educational leadership is a testament to her resilience and dedication. After focusing on raising her family in her twenties, Reeves returned to school to pursue a teaching career. She began her teaching journey at Holy Angels Catholic School in Globe, Arizona, where she taught for nearly a decade. Driven by a passion for educational leadership, Reeves transitioned into administrative roles in both public and private schools. During the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic, she made a significant career shift, taking on the role of parish secretary. It was during this time that Reeves collaborated with her pastor, Father Madhu George, to establish a school for the parish, a venture that caught the attention of the Bishop of Tucson. Recognizing Reeves' dedication and leadership potential, the Bishop of Tucson appointed her, along with Father George to lead St. Charles Apache Mission School in the 2023-2024 school year. 

Joalah Webb, the principal of St. Mary’s Mission School was inspired to pursue a career in education after spending time in her youth coaching and volunteering with the Special Olympics. With nearly two decades of experience in both public and private schools, Webb has led special education initiatives and IT departments, bringing a diversity of knowledge to her current role. Webb's journey led her to St. Mary’s Mission School after teaching in a neighboring community, where she connected deeply with her students, many of whom hailed from Red Lake. This experience ignited her passion for serving Indigenous communities and ultimately drew her to St. Mary’s Mission School.

Leadership in Year One

In their inaugural year leading their respective schools, Miyasato, Reeves, and Webb have embarked on journeys of growth and learning, gaining invaluable experience in the process. 

All three principals have expressed deep fulfillment in serving their students. Miyasato emphasized the great joy she finds in being part of the school community, and she noted the rewarding nature of working closely with students. She has been impressed by the holistic and child-centered approach to education at OLL and is proud of the school's commitment to nurturing the whole child. Miyasato commends the staff for their expertise and willingness to embrace Indigenous pedagogical approaches, which have enriched the learning experience for students. One Indigenous pedagogy, Takuku Ecunk’unpi, translates to “We do various things” and encompasses OLL’s hands-on, experiential, land-based approach to education. 

Lorraine Reeves
Lorraine Reeves

Joalah Webb has found immense satisfaction in building strong relationships with both students and staff at St. Mary’s. She is grateful for the strong school culture, which she believes is essential for a thriving school community. Webb's focus has been on modernizing the curriculum and technology at St. Mary’s, ensuring that students have access to high-quality online learning resources. She finds particular joy in the school's rich history, as she said, “Generations have been coming to this school, it’s amazing to hear stories from current students’ grandparents, parents, uncles, and aunts about their time at our school.” 

Similarly, Reeves finds the most rewarding aspect of her new role at St. Charles Apache to be the time spent with students. She noted, “The children have changed my heart, they’re just so warm and caring.” Additionally, Reeves has embraced the opportunity to immerse herself in the rich culture and traditions of St. Charles. She has enjoyed participating in events such as the annual pageant, where students wear traditional dress, eat fry bread, and create crafts. 

Visions for the Future

Miyasato, Reeves, and Webb shared inspiring visions for the future of their schools, each aiming to cultivate a nurturing environment that fosters academic excellence and celebrates the unique cultural heritage of their students.

At Our Lady of Lourdes, Miyasato spoke about making Our Lady of Lourdes “a model school, not just on the reservation but a model school for the country” with the goal of becoming “a holistic, child-centered learning community.” This vision is already taking shape through innovative initiatives such as team teaching, the introduction of social justice-oriented classes, and the transformation of the library into a student lounge and media center.

Joalah Webb
Joalah Webb

At St. Mary’s Mission, the parish recently embarked on a seven-year capital campaign to fund the construction of a new church building, after the original church building burnt down in 2017. The new church was recently opened to the public and dedicated in early March, marking a significant milestone for the parish community. Looking ahead, Webb aims to increase enrollment at the school and launch a capital campaign to construct a new school building, further improving the educational environment.

St. Charles Apache Mission School, like numerous schools nationwide, is grappling with teacher shortages. Reeves is dedicated to brainstorming innovative solutions to address this challenge, recognizing the critical importance of a strong faculty. Additionally, she is committed to enhancing the school's academic standards and reinforcing its Catholic identity, both of which are central to her vision for the school's future.


In closing, the school communities of Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Charles Apache, and St. Mary’s Mission School are privileged to have three dedicated and visionary leaders at their helm. With their guidance, these schools are poised for a future filled with promise and growth.

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