Nations within a Nation

Cross-Cultural Field Insights in an Anishinaabe Context


  • Lucinda Grace Heimer University of Wisconsin - Whitewater
  • Lynell Caya Bristol Elementary School, Bristol, Wisconsin
  • Paige Lancaster Walworth County Public Health, Elkhorn, Wisconsin
  • Lauren Saxon Marshall Early Learning Center, Marshall, Wisconsin
  • Courtney Wildman West Ridge Elementary School, Racine, Wisconsin


Early childhood teacher education, Indigenous education, International field experiences, Tribal sovereignty, Colonization, Anishinaabe


This case study of undergraduate early childhood education pre-service teachers in an international field experience examines living, working, and studying in a sovereign nation while still “at home” within the United States. In our various roles (researcher, pre-service teacher, faculty mentor), we explored the impact of colonization as we lived and worked with people who are Anishinaabe. We viewed the larger issues that tribal sovereignty brings to education in terms of federal and state standards. Our research focuses on the impact of this cross-cultural field experience on the pre-service teachers’ understanding of self as related to cross-cultural teaching. We employed a reflective multilayered process before, during, and following the field experience, and used qualitative emergent coding methods. Pre-service teachers developed an awareness of their individual comfort zones, recognized the power in strengths-based versus deficit-based approaches, and gained clarity on the cultural role of education and the role of culture in education.  With this new knowledge, teachers may be better able to create culturally relevant curriculum and pedagogies in ways that allow for more meaningful connections with students and their families.

Author Biographies

Lucinda Grace Heimer, University of Wisconsin - Whitewater

Lucinda Heimer, Ph.D., is associate professor and program coordinator of the early childhood/special Education dual licensure program at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Dr. Heimer has published on topics including interdisciplinary curriculum and collaboration in the Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, Global Studies of Childhood, and Early Years as well as chapters in multiple edited texts.  She has engaged and presented on critical theory, duoethnography and decolonizing methodologies to illuminate practicing and future teacher perspectives regarding identity, race and social justice in early education specifically working with Indigenous communities.  She has taught undergraduate and graduate courses, supervised students in urban, rural and suburban school districts in Pre-K through 3rd grade settings, worked as a classroom teacher and early childhood center director. 

Lynell Caya, Bristol Elementary School, Bristol, Wisconsin

Lynell Caya is an early childhood special education teacher at Bristol Elementary School in Bristol, Wisconsin.  She co-created and teaches an inclusive three-year-old preschool program, a program designed for children with and without disabilities to learn from and form relationships with their peers. She also co-teaches in a 4-year-old kindergarten classroom.  Lynell received her bachelor’s of science degree in early childhood education, dual licensure, from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Paige Lancaster, Walworth County Public Health, Elkhorn, Wisconsin

Paige Lancaster (BSE in early childhood education with dual licenses in early childhood education and special education) currently works as an early interventionist for Walworth County Public Health in Wisconsin. Previous experience includes early intervention work in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin and teaching with Head Start. 

Lauren Saxon, Marshall Early Learning Center, Marshall, Wisconsin

Lauren Saxon (BSE in early childhood education with dual licenses in early childhood education and special education) is a kindergarten teacher in a rural community. She enjoys working with families from all walks of life and being an advocate for them. When she’s not teaching, she loves reading a good mystery and being outdoors.

Courtney Wildman, West Ridge Elementary School, Racine, Wisconsin

Courtney Wildman (BSE in early childhood education with dual licenses in early childhood education and special education) is in her 4th year teaching currently at a public Title I school in Racine, Wisconsin.  She serves on the school trauma committee, where they will begin implementing trauma-informed practices. Courtney is passionate about having a therapy dog that is integrated into the classroom to help with trauma, social-emotional learning, reading, and positive classroom climate.