Kayla Guyett: "Student Forever"

Kayla Guyett, in her second year with the Lushootseed Language Institute, describes herself as a "student forever."

Kayla Guyett describes herself as a “student forever.” In this context, student refers to someone with a lifelong commitment to learning both in and out of the classroom. Guyett is particularly interested in language revitalization. Last summer she attended the inaugural Lushootseed Language Institute [LLI] at UW Tacoma. “It was a life-changing experience,” she said. “Being surrounded by a bigger movement and people who care about what you care about changes a little part of you.”

Guyett approached members of the Puyallup Tribe after the end of last year’s Institute. “I told them I’d do whatever I can for this language,” she said. Not long after, members of the Puyallup Tribe reached out to Guyett and offered her a position at Chief Leschi Schools. Guyett now works as a culture teacher for the elementary classrooms. “We go in and work with students and teachers on developing their competency with Lushootseed,” she said. “The goal is to have them take the language outside the classroom.”

Guyett and her fellow language teachers at Chief Leschi use a language model similar to the one used in LLI. Students immerse themselves in Lushootseed with a focus on the everyday. “It’s great to see this happen right in front of you,” said Guyett. “You work with these kids on a regular basis and get to see them develop and become comfortable with the language.”

This development is mirrored in Guyett’s home life. She is teaching her three-year-old son Lushootseed. Guyett learned about “language nests” during LLI (read “Learning the Language: The Revitalization of Lushootseed”) and set up two in her home. She devotes time every day to speaking Lushootseed outside her role as a culture teacher. “I talk with my son and I have conversations with my husband where I speak in Lushootseed and he responds in English.”

Not surprisingly, Guyett signed up to participate in this year’s LLI. She says this year feels more communal. The emphasis has shifted somewhat to include more songs, games and breakout sessions where students get to practice their skills with each other. “I love it,” she said. “I feel like I’m going to be even better prepared to help students at Chief Leschi in the year ahead.”

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Written by: 
Eric Wilson-Edge / January 8, 2018
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or johnbjr@uw.edu