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An Inspiring Educator’s Legacy Inspires Future Educators

Josephine Selvage with her son David in 1967.

Josephine Selvage with her son David in 1967.

“A person has four clans making up who they are as a person in this world,” said Tiffany Lena Chee-Harvey. “My first clan is Bitter Water clan, and our characteristics support the occupation of an educator, because Bitter Water people tend to be outspoken and strong at offering guidance.” This is Chee-Harvey’s Diné (Navajo) heritage, and even as a youngster growing up on a reservation near Arizona’s Canyon de Chelly, she’d practice teaching.

“I used to set up all my stuffed animals,” she said, “and use my bedroom window as a chalkboard. I’d force my three brothers to be students too,” she laughed. Chee-Harvey’s interests changed throughout her school years, but eventually brought her to the UNM College of Education (COE), where she recently received her B.S.Ed. in Elementary Education.

The Josephine H. Selvage Memorial Scholarship helped Chee-Harvey achieve her goal. Selvage taught third and fourth graders at Albuquerque’s Zuni Elementary School for more than two decades, while raising four children on her own. Reading was one of her great passions, and her son David, a UNM alum, remembers his mother instilling a love of literature in her own children, and her students.

“Thanks to strong, resilient women like Josephine Selvage, our leaders of tomorrow are securing their futures for the benefit of our nation.”
—Tiffany Lena Chee-Harvey

Tiffany Lena Chee-Harvey and Yellow Ranger.

Tiffany Lena Chee-Harvey and Yellow Ranger.

“My mother loved children, and loved teaching,” he stated. “She understood that reading is the gateway to all other avenues for learning, and a mechanism for opening the imagination. She was a great advocate for her students gaining competency.” Even in retirement, Selvage volunteered as a reading tutor for elementary students. After her death the family chose to honor her memory by endowing a scholarship.

Just as Selvage dedicated her life’s work to her students’ future success, Chee-Harvey intends to help her native community flourish. “I’ll teach on the reservation next spring,” she said, “and then go for an MA in educational leadership. My goal is to develop an outdoor education curriculum that will reach across the Navajo Nation, fusing science with our culture, which is based on respect for the land.”

“Envisioning a future where I am an educator in my own community,” Chee-Harvey wrote in a letter to the Selvage family, “keeps me happy and motivated.”


To learn more about creating a meaningful memorial to fund student success, contact Mary Wolford 505-277-1088