Students at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Rural Alaska Honors Institute will have new options to explore teaching careers and Alaska Native languages during the summer 2019 session.
At RAHI, high school juniors and seniors from across Alaska will attend classes on the Fairbanks campus from May 28-July 12. They’ll earn up to 11 college credits, which are transferable to any college or university in the United States.
This year, RAHI will offer a new education exploration pathway, funded by the University of Alaska. UA President Jim Johnsen wants 90 percent of Alaska teachers to be educated in Alaska by 2025.
“We are excited to offer this focus on teaching as a career,” said Sandra Kowalski, director of indigenous programs at the UAF College of Rural and Community Development. “Alaska students will benefit greatly as we prepare more of them to teach in rural and Alaska classrooms. Alaskans who become teachers are more committed to staying in our communities.”
Students this year also can enroll in a new three-credit class introducing four Alaska Native languages — Iñupiaq, Athabascan, Yup’ik and Gwich’in. The elective is the first step toward earning a K-12 teaching degree with credentials in Alaska Native languages.
The Alaska Association for Career and Technical Education celebrated 13 outstanding Alaskan educators, workforce development champions, and business and community leaders with awards at their October 2018 state conference in Anchorage.
Outstanding CTE Teacher of the Year: Chris Taylor, Mat-Su Career Tech High School, Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District
Outstanding NEW CTE Teacher of the Year, sponsored by Alaska Business Education Compact: Vanessa Forbes, King Tech High School, Anchorage School District
Business/Information Technology Teacher of the Year, sponsored by Alaska Business Week: Ken Werner, Alaska Vocational Technical Education Center
Industrial/Technology Teacher of the Year, sponsored by Construction Industry Progress Fund: Peter Daley, Hutchison High School, Fairbanks North Star Borough School District
Health Sciences Teacher of the Year: Kelly Woolcott, Mat-Su Career Tech High School, Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District
Hospitality/Tourism Teacher of the Year, sponsored by Alaska CHARR: Melinda Dooley, Service High School, Anchorage School District
STEM Teacher of the Year, sponsored by Alaska Resource Education: John Notestine, Wasilla High School, Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District
CTE Administrator of the Year: Jon Clouse, Southwest Region School District
Promising Practices Award, sponsored by Andrews Auctions, Appraisals and Professional Services: Christel Mozaelevskiy, Redington High School, Educators Rising Program, Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District
Leadership Award, sponsored by LeCompte Consulting: Marcia Olson, Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development
Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by Alaska Process Industry Careers Consortium: Fred Villa, Workforce Development, University of Alaska
Community Contribution Award: John Plutt, Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 375, Fairbanks
Community Contribution Award: Gloria Burnett, Alaska Center for Rural Health and Health Workforce/Alaska Health Education Consortium
Alaska’s higher education leaders are overhauling their operations in an effort to ultimately improve the outcomes of the state’s youngest students.
The University of Alaska System debuted its College of Education this month, which system President Jim Johnsen hopes will provide better structure to teacher education programs statewide and eventually help the UA produce more homegrown teachers to fill vacancies in school districts statewide.
“I can’t say it enough, teachers are the single most important job in our state and in our society,” Johnsen stressed in an interview. “The touch or touched every single person in our state and their purpose, more than any other occupation in our society, is to support our people and to advance our people.”
Individuals with a solid educational background add to a skilled workforce, are more culturally aware, earn higher incomes, are less likely to be incarcerated and live healthier lives, Johnsen added.
“It’s (the middle of) summer, but students seeking higher education are making plans for fall. The university’s new Alaska College of Education aims to train more state residents to take teaching jobs here. The idea is to keep good teachers in rural Alaska communities.”
So began a round-robin discussion on July 24, when President Jim Johnsen and College of Education Executive Dean Steve Atwater joined host Lori Townsend on Alaska Public Radio Network’s Talk of Alaska to discuss the university’s goal to recruit and educate more teachers. The discussion also included Kameron Perez-Verdia, president/CEO of Alaska Humanities Forum.
“What precipitated [the Alaska College of Education] was the regents’ recognition that this is a critically important issue and our challenges…You are looking at the single most important job in our state,” Johnsen said.
Alaska faces a range of obstacles as the university endeavors to educate more Alaska teachers. Currently 70 percent of teachers hired each year for Alaska school districts come from outside the state and turnover, especially in rural Alaska, is as high as 50 percent annually. Teachers who come to rural Alaska from outside the state are often unprepared to understand cultural differences and infrastructure challenges, and the effects of decades of trauma from forced assimilation and abuse of Alaska Native students in schools are still present. The effects of these obstacles are costly, both in the financial cost of constant teacher recruitment and the impact to students who witness teachers regularly cycling in and out of their schools.
Dillingham Elementary School fourth-grade teacher, Andrew Berkoski, received a BP 2018 Teachers of Excellence award.
“Fourth-grade is my favorite age to teach,” said Berkowski, who has been doing so for five years. “I have taught from fourth all the way through the university level. And fourth-graders are by far my favorite. Like I always say, the cement is still wet, they’re still very moldable. They’re fun. They get things quickly, and it’s never a dull moment.”
Alaska After School Hero
Deanna Baier received the Alaska After School Hero award for her work as a Bristol Bay 4-H Coordinator and Tribal Indian Child Welfare worker. Baier has been working with Bristol Bay 4-H since 2014. She has expanded the program to multiple locations in Bristol Bay, and she just opened a new location in Anchorage.
“The 4-H activities provide positive prevention and wellness activities for kids to keep them safe, and to keep them out of trouble,” said Baier. “And I also believe in the power of five, which is that each successful youth has five positive adults that they can turn to in crisis or whenever they need help or assistance. And so the 4-H program helps to provide those.”
Bristol Bay 4-H is an extracurricular club for youth from kindergarten through 12th grade, and Baier says that close to 100 kids are currently enrolled. She expects that number to jump during the summer culture camps.
“I think from the culture camps the kids get a sense of community,” Baier explained. “You have a bunch of kids that may not normally hang out or work together come together for a month and participate in cultural activities such as native dancing, arts and crafts and drumming. The kids are able to make dance fans and headdresses.”