An Anchorage teacher is one of four finalists for this year’s prestigious National Teacher of the Year award.
Danielle Riha, 51, teaches seventh- and eighth-grade students at the Alaska Native Cultural Charter School in the Anchorage School District. She was named the 2019 Alaska Teacher of the Year in October. That put her in the running for this year’s National Teacher of the Year award as Alaska’s official nominee.
Riha was named one of four finalists in the national competition on Wednesday. A committee selected her from a nationwide group of 57 nominated teachers. It’s the first time an Alaska teacher was picked as a finalist for National Teacher of the Year since 1995, according to the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development.
“I feel really excited,” Riha said. “Not just for me, but for my school.”
This year’s other finalists are Donna Gradel from Oklahoma, Kelly Harper from Washington, D.C., and Rodney Robinson from Virginia, said a statement from the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Washington,D.C.-based nonprofit that runs the award program.
Oceanographers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks International Arctic Research Center embark this week for a 55-day research expedition in the eastern Arctic Ocean. This year, Fairbanks elementary school teacher Moira O’Malley will join the team.
“I am ecstatic about this opportunity,” O’Malley said.
O’Malley will write a daily blog, providing updates that are exciting, fun, and written to get youth interested and involved in Arctic research. Her second-graders at Watershed School in Fairbanks will be among many Alaska students and educators following along. Once a week, students will get to ask O’Malley questions about research and life on a 438-foot scientific vessel, the Akademik Tryoshnikov.
Less than three years into her teaching career, Siray Abbey is already making a big impact in the Anchorage School District.
“It brings me so much fulfillment and so much joy. I love molding these little humans into good people,” explained Abbey.
A resource and special education teacher at Gladys Wood Elementary School, KTVA 11’s Teacher of the Week said she takes a holistic approach when it comes to teaching.
“I really try and connect with my students and create real genuine connections that impact them and make them feel loved and cared for when they’re here at school.” Abbey said making those connection has been the secret to her early success in the classroom.
“When they look at you and know that you care about them, they are so much more happier and so much more willing to learn,” explained Abbey.
Prior to working at Gladys Wood, Abbey spent two years at Nunaka Valley Elementary School teaching pre-school special education. She is currently in the process of getting her master’s degree at UAA and expects to graduate in 2018.
Ben Walker ’06, a seventh grade science teacher at Romig Middle School in Anchorage, is the 2018 Alaska State Teacher of the Year. “I really enjoy the fact that every day is different. Every kid is different. Every kid is different every day.”
Ben Walker teaches seventh-grade science in the same Romig Middle School classroom that his mother once did.
For 11 years, his wife taught science in the classroom next door.
“Science runs in this family,” said Anchorage School District Superintendent Deena Bishop.
So does teaching.
And earlier this month, Walker earned the highest teaching honor awarded by the Alaska education department.
Alaska Education Commissioner Michael Johnson named Walker the 2018 Alaska Teacher of the Year at a surprise, school-wide assembly Thursday morning at the West Anchorage middle school in front of a crowd of energetic students, co-workers and family members, including his two children, who clapped and cheered in response to the news.