Surviving your first year in the bush

This is the new version of the Alaska Teacher Placement (ATP) forum for teachers, education majors, and school administrators to discuss working and living in the state of Alaska. Those considering an Alaskan job, or considering a new Alaskan education job ask questions, and those with information and/or opinions provide answers. Although many users are teacher or principal candidates from the Lower 48, a large number of current and former school district HR and school administrators subscribe.

Moderators: Johncn, Betty Walters, Toni McFadden, Damon Hargraves

Surviving your first year in the bush

Postby ElemEducator » Sun Apr 05, 2015 2:01 am

Hey Teachers!

The job fairs are in full swing, meaning many of you are in the process of applying, interviewing, and signing contracts. I was in your shoes one year ago and I had sooooooo many questions. Most of my questions went unanswered, and yes, I STILL SURVIVED :D .

I wanted to make a post making myself available to anyone interested in teaching in rural Alaska. Questions that might pertain to moving, guerrilla shopping, supplies, and gear are all extremely important and need to be considered. Even though I have only lived and taught in rural Alaska for just under a year, I have gained a plethora of knowledge that I would love to share with any incoming teachers.

Please please please feel free to respond to this post if you have any questions. If I do not know the answer I will do what I can to point you in the right direction. I have learned that Alaska teachers are a very close group of individuals who do a wonderful job helping out where they can.

Good luck for all of those job hunting. I promise that the stress and anxiety will eventually be worth it. Keep fighting and working toward your dream, and eventually, it will happen!
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Re: Surviving your first year in the bush

Postby madowlspeaks » Sun Apr 05, 2015 12:55 pm

Is it possible to get kitty litter shipped to the bush? If so, how and is it expensive?
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Re: Surviving your first year in the bush

Postby ElemEducator » Sun Apr 05, 2015 1:31 pm

Your best bet would be amazon prime. I checked for prices and depending on what kind you use, a box can run anywhere from $10-$30 with that price including shipping. Once you arrive out here you will quickly realize that Amazon Prime is your best friend.
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Re: Surviving your first year in the bush

Postby natticakes » Mon Apr 06, 2015 2:40 pm

Howdy!
I am wanting to work in the bush too. My question is regarding the certification process in Alaska. How did you do the multicultural classes that are required? Are these typically online classes and therefore nothing to fret about if I reside in the bush?
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Re: Surviving your first year in the bush

Postby ElemEducator » Mon Apr 06, 2015 2:50 pm

I was able to take the first of my multi-cultural courses during the first semester this year. It was a breeze, and somewhat informative. It was offered via distance delivery at our school via UAF.

You do not have to take these classes at a physical University, as that would essentially be impossible living out here. I am planning on taking the second course during the first semester next year, in the same fashion.

Most districts will let you know the best way to do this during in-service. My district offered an extremely discounted rate of $75 which included all textbooks. These classes are very simple and not too demanding. Don't let the distance delivery or the logistics of the classes scare you at all!
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Re: Surviving your first year in the bush

Postby natticakes » Mon Apr 06, 2015 3:50 pm

Fabulous news! Thank you.
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Re: Surviving your first year in the bush

Postby cyclone67 » Mon Apr 06, 2015 6:54 pm

I would recommend you hold off on your two Alaska classes. You have plenty of time and you may get an opportunity to take them for free or get credit through some other ways. I was lucky enough to take the cultural class that way. My district payed and I spent 4 days in Nome going to class and then spent a week at a native fish camp. My other class I took through ASDN (Alaska Staff Development Network). It was online and took me about a month. You have 2 years to work on that. Lots of culture camp opportunities in many districts and its fun and you will learn a lot more!
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Re: Surviving your first year in the bush

Postby tnuts20 » Sun Apr 12, 2015 11:49 am

My roommate and I were hired for Meade River School in Atqasuk! We are excited, and we are overwhelmed!!
Questions we have:

Where would we fly into?
When should we start booking our flights ?
How can we learn more about the culture, prior to the first day of school ?
What advice would you give us for our first year ?

Thank you!!
Tonia
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Re: Surviving your first year in the bush

Postby cyclone67 » Sun Apr 12, 2015 5:51 pm

Before you make flights you need to make sure you have the information on what days you need to be there and where. Some districts will have you report to your school first and some will have you report to district for inservice / new teacher training. A few districts even do their in services in Fairbanks. Does your district have a Welcome Wagon of any sort? I would check in with your principal to find out about where and when you need to be. they should be able to tell you about what your hub location to fly through. Sorry, I don't know anything to help with Northern Slope. Hopefully someone will come by with some advice!

Congratulations!
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Re: Surviving your first year in the bush

Postby ElemEducator » Wed Apr 15, 2015 5:27 pm

Congrats on your new job in Atqasuk! It is definitely way up there, meaning that you are up for a very rewarding challenge!

As far as your flights, I would contact you Prinicpal and/or Superintendent. They're usually VERY GOOD about pointing you in the right direction. It looks like you will be flying in and out of Barrow, so you will most likely fly from your current location to Anchorage or Fairbanks, to Barrow, then to Atqasuk. I know this sounds overwhelming, but you Prinicipal/Super will be a good resource.

I was offered a job this time last year and had flights booked by the end of April. They are much cheaper if you book them now. I am not sure on your take on credit cards, but if you open an Alaska Airline CC through Visa, you get 25,000 free miles. You can use those miles to fly to Anchorage and Barrow. This was very helpful for the wife and I when we moved from Michigan since we went broke getting up here :).

Start contacting current teachers. And by teachers, I mean more than ONE! You should get input from many teacher (returning and non-returning) as they will both be able to provide you with valuable advice.

I didn't know/learn too much about the culture ahead of time and it was no problem. The natives didn't really care about the knowledge I had ahead of time, as most of them are very welcoming and open.

I am not sure what you and your roommate will be teaching, but I will ALWAYS recommend the book : The First Days of School: How to be an Effective Teacher [i]by Harry Wong.[/i]

I was introduced to this book in college and it has done wonders for me. I teach 2nd grade and use so much from this book.

Good luck on your new adventure. Please feel free to message with any other questions!
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Re: Surviving your first year in the bush

Postby tnuts20 » Sun Apr 19, 2015 12:55 pm

Thank you so much for the info !!!
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Re: Surviving your first year in the bush

Postby Johncn » Mon Apr 20, 2015 7:57 am

Tonia,

As the other poster said, you will need to check with NSBSD on the dates they require new teachers to be at site and/or the district's in-service for new hires. Karen's office will almost certainly be sending you a packet with that information, but you can call her assistant and ask:

http://www.nsbsd.org/Page/620

Here is this year's Meade River school calendar from the Alaska EED database. It will give you an IDEA of what the calendar will likely look like this year, but don't buy tickets without checking with your new employer. You should get tickets soon if you are expected to purchase them. The prices will only go up as tourists arrive in Alaska.

http://education.alaska.gov/DOE_Rolodex/SchoolCalendar/Home/SchoolCalendar/911

The tip on the Alaska Airlines card is a good one...we use ours for everything (groceries, monthly bills, etc.) and get the miles...and the companion fare. Even better in some ways for those moving is that you may be able to sign up for the Alaska Airlines Club 49. This may give you and your roomie two free bags on Alaska Airlines to and from Alaska.

From an earlier post (the order you do this in is important):

One thing to consider is that once you have an Alaska mailing address (like the place the district allows you send your boxes, or a PO Box, you can join the Alaska Airline Frequent Flyer club, and the Alaskan resident's only "Club 49" group using that address before you depart. This little trick gets you two free bags into and out of Alaska for each member of your party on Alaska Airlines flights. It has worked in the past for other new hires, but your experience may vary:

1) Join Alaska Airlines Mileage plan - using your new Alaska address

http://www.alaskaair.com/content/mileag ... -plan.aspx

2) Club 49 Membership

http://www.alaskaair.com/content/deals/ ... ub-49.aspx


For first year advice, the Wong books is a good one. Not sure what you are teaching, but equally important for those in multigrade classrooms for their first year would be to research how to effectively manage instruction in that setting. Many rural schools have elementary classrooms with 2 or 4 grade levels combined for instruction. This is a slightly different environment than most pre-service teacher preparation programs and student teaching will prepare you for...there are tips and tricks that can be learned before you arrive that could make your first semester more successful in that environment.

If a first or second year teacher in many districts - specifically those district that participate with the Alaska Statewide Mentorship Program (ASMP) - you will probably get your own mentor that will provide good advice, as well as fly out and mentor you. They work for the teacher, not the district, actually, and are a great benefit to new teachers in our state:

Alaska Statewide Mentor Project
http://www.alaskamentorproject.org/

Hope these help, and feel free to ask more and/or search the ATP Forum for advice on moving and shopping. Many people here will have the latest and greatest info from recent migrations just like yours.

Regards,

John
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Re: Surviving your first year in the bush

Postby tnuts20 » Sat May 02, 2015 4:18 pm

I received a phone call the other day that the position I was hired for did not receive the funding. This was a little scary considering I had already resigned from my current teaching position ( tenured). Fortunately for me, they had an opening for another job.
Yikes!!!
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