Teaching in Alaska

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

Teaching in Alaska

Postby GeorgiaGal93 » Mon Jul 06, 2015 11:54 am

Hello,
I am currently seeking my teacher certification with an ESOL endorsement. I plan to graduate in December of 2016. My cousin taught in Alaska and loved it. I think this is something that would really open my eyes, and offer a great experience.
I have a few questions:
First, what is Alaska like? Coming from the South, all I can think is cold, cold, cold. I know it won't be 100 degrees in the summer or anything.
Also, how does this process work. I see that I can apply for the positions that I want...but how do I know which location would work best for me?
Once I apply, and get accepted, I know there will be a million more questions on the nitty-gritty stuff... I'll save that for later!
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Re: Teaching in Alaska

Postby Bushteachers » Tue Jul 07, 2015 8:16 am

What part of Georgia? Where you going to school? We are originally from GA. Don't have any desire to return. You still have some time so the question would be what are you looking for? ESOL jobs are limited but your certification would e helpful. The school we were at the previous three years had a 50% ESOL population. Drop me a PM and we'd be happy to help. Also if you do get a job we normally return for a few weeks to visit family. We'd be happy to help walk you through the process.
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Re: Teaching in Alaska

Postby GeorgiaGal93 » Tue Jul 07, 2015 11:47 am

I am from the southside of Atlanta--Fayetteville, Peachtree City area. I am in school at Georgia State Univeristy in downtown Atlanta. I don't really know what I am looking for in regards to location. I know I don't want to go too far north, being a southerner and all. I would love to go to the bush, but I don't know if I would make it. It would be worth the challenge!
I didn't choose the ESOL endorsement, GSU offers it since it mostly deals with "urban" education.
P.S. I would PM you, but the site won't let me.
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Re: Teaching in Alaska

Postby Johncn » Thu Jul 09, 2015 4:33 am

Hello,

The site will let you PM other users, but asks you to authenticate (i.e. give your username and password) first. Just click on the user's name, and authenticate. Unless the person you are trying to contact has PMs turned off for their account, it will give you the option to send a private message.

I should remind y'all, however, that the main purpose of an open forum such as this one is to converse in public about topics, not really to converse privately. ATP allows PMs as an option, but why not let everyone in on the discussion? Just a thought. :)

Regards,

John
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Re: Teaching in Alaska

Postby GeorgiaGal93 » Thu Jul 09, 2015 1:24 pm

Thank you John! I agree! I want a wide variety of options! :D The people who previously replied are from the same area I am from in GA. Please give me your opinion. :)
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Re: Teaching in Alaska

Postby Johncn » Thu Jul 09, 2015 2:33 pm

Well, first off, you're graduating in December of 2016, which means you will be in the market about a year and a half from now. so you have plenty of time to do your research, and this forum (and the main website at http://www.alaskateacher.org/) is the right place to start.

First, what is Alaska like?


This very hard to answer. It's a state so large that if you cut it in half, Texas would still be the the THIRD largest state. ;-) It has five different climate zones, many different cultures in different areas. Some areas are just like any town in the Pacific Northwest, and other parts are more like a foreign country than they are anyplace in the Lower 48...meaning that everything is different there: how you shop, how you get around, the language you hear at the store, and the cultural expectations. It just depends where in Alaska you go.

Coming from the South, all I can think is cold, cold, cold. I know it won't be 100 degrees in the summer or anything.


Some parts of Alaska have temperatures in the 80s and thunderstorms in the summer, and lots of fires (Interior), and others are cool and raining all summer. Some is rain forest. Some is essentially alpine or high arctic desert....with no trees.

Also, how does this process work. I see that I can apply for the positions that I want...but how do I know which location would work best for me?


You really have to start with the main ATP site, and then start to narrow things down over time as you learn more. You'll get an idea about whether you are leaning toward one or two or three regions / cultural areas / districts. No matter what you THINK you want, be sure to keep an open mind. With an ESOL endorsement them most important thing is going to be finding the right district that wants and needs you. The key is getting you first job and getting some experience. You are not committing for life. You are trying to get a start and learn a new career.

Welcome to the forum. Start a new thread for each "type" or range of questions, and you'll find many people with experience and a variety of opinions will pitch in!

Hope this helps,

John
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Re: Teaching in Alaska

Postby marymatt718 » Thu Jul 09, 2015 7:38 pm

For what it's worth, here's my two cents:

Don't dismiss the old archived forum. If you look at a village and want to see what others have mentioned about it, do a keyword search on the old forum. I decided I could never go to Kotzebue because of the difficulty of finding pet-friendly housing, something I found out about on the old forum...which was the current forum when I was looking. Dogs are not allowed on the Pribilof Islands because they are migratory bird sanctuaries...also something I found out on the old forum.

Look up the villages you're considering on Wikipedia, which often has climate data on it.

As a science teacher, I can tell you that water is a heat sink, so look for coastal communities if you want milder weather...exceptions being the Bering Strait and the Chukchi Sea simply because they are so far north. I work in the Bristol Bay region and had worse weather in the northeast (NYC) when I was there years ago than I have experienced here.

Consider going to the Anchorage job fair in 2016 just to check it out and be able to talk to teachers who are moving districts for one reason or another. (Be nosy and find out why they're moving.) Do some networking with human resources people while you're there. It will cost you about about $1000 to fly back and forth and stay in a hotel, but that's job-hunting/education and might even count as a tax expense. You don't have to stay at the Captain Cook. I stayed at the Voyager across the street which was less expensive but was just across the street. (Apply for the Alaska Airlines mileage card on their website and you get 25K miles right away, which will cover most, if not all your flight to Anchorage. You will need a credit card in Alaska. You might as well get one that will give you miles on the airline you will be using the most.)

Good luck. We're here to help if you need it...and look at Togiak, AK, the best village in Alaska (I am totally shameless ;) )
Donna M.
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Working as a TA in Rural Alaska with an Associate's Degree?

Postby stephanie_schneider » Sun Sep 06, 2015 3:56 am

Hello! I am new to this forum, and I seem to be unable to figure out how to create a new thread. I know this is not really the right place to post a new question. If a moderator can move this question to somewhere appropriate, it would be great.

So--the question:

I am just finishing a summer working for the National Park Service in Kotzebue. My job as an interpretive ranger was to teach the local kids about nature/culture/etc. I have been working as an NPS interpreter (teacher) for six years, and have also been working as a K-8 school group educator in inner city areas of Michigan for the past three winters. In other words, I have a lot of teaching experience--BUT I do not have certification. I have a BA in English, a BA in political science, AND a BA in journalism (past career goals).

My fiancé has only an Associate's Degree in liberal arts, due to lack of money, but is fantastic with kids and interacting with the public.

I recently met a man who has been working as a TA here for three years, with only his trade school certification in welding. He said that both my fiancé and I could work as TAs here in Kotzebue, and that if I completed certification via online courses, I could get a job as a full-fledged teacher. He also said that TAs still get a decent wage, and subsidized housing.

This all seemed too good to be true, so I checked with the Northwest Arctic Borough School District’s HR guy, who said that, yes, my fiancé could get a job as a TA here with his Associate's degree. This would help him get is foot in the door, since he has been working minimum wage retail jobs since graduating college in 2006. However, I am still somewhat skeptical, since it seems too easy. There has to be a catch.

There is nothing on this forum that I could find about being a TA, or having a BA and no certification (me)/an Associate's degree and no teaching experience (him). Based on my experience living here for four months, and the fact that there is very little opportunity for my fiancé back in Michigan, we are seriously considering working here in Kotzebue starting in the 2016 school year.

What should we know? What's the "catch"? As I said, he has an Associate's and I have several BAs and teaching experience, but no teacher certification. Could we really both get decently-paying jobs as TAs here in Kotz, like the HR guy at the NWABSD said?

I would really appreciate a reply, even though this post is in the wrong spot. I loved being here this summer, and am sad to leave the kids I have gotten to know; it would be nice to come back as a "real" resident. And, of course, my fiancé and I have been engaged for three years, and haven't gotten married because I don't have a stable job (my seasonal NPS work takes me all over the country) and he only gets minimum wage. This looks like it could be the answer.

What is the "catch"? Or is it all true?

Thank you SO much for your replies.

Sincerely,

Stephanie Schneider
Park Ranger and Outreach Educator
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Re: Teaching in Alaska

Postby cyclone67 » Sun Sep 06, 2015 7:59 am

It is quite common for spouses and even significant others of teachers to get TA or sub jobs. However I don't see you both being hired on as TA's (at least in the Bush). It is totally doable though if you can get into a program and get a teaching position. Maybe Kotzebue is different, but where I was there is no need to hire outsiders in a TA position; which then takes the position away from a local reaident. Maybe someone from that region can respond! You need to research how you can get that certification and how long it would take to get you into a classroom in a teaching position. You obviously like teaching so work on that certification!
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Re: Teaching in Alaska

Postby stephanie_schneider » Sun Sep 06, 2015 12:27 pm

The HR guy here in Kotz seemed to think that we could both be hired as TAs. I made it very clear to him that I do not have certification, and do not have the money to GET certification; I am still paying off my debt from my three BAs. He said that all teachers, including TAs, are very in demand, and added that he was willing to hire me almost immediately for the position. I turned it down, since my fiance is still in Michigan. What do you all make of that?
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Re: Teaching in Alaska

Postby cyclone67 » Sun Sep 06, 2015 12:57 pm

Can you live off the salary? What does your boyfriend think is a better question! And I would come up with a plan to move forward with certification. If you could get certified in ELA and social Studies you would have a lot more options! I would see if there is an program you could work on to get certified while you work as a TA.
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Re: Teaching in Alaska

Postby stephanie_schneider » Sun Sep 06, 2015 1:34 pm

Thanks for the reply. However, I simply can't affored to go back to school, with the massive loans I am still paying off.

As to the salary, I have been living off of $22/hour with no health benefits while living in Kotzebue working for NPS, with $400/month housing, so I think it would work out to be pretty similar, as I was quoted $26/hour with benefits and $600/month for the TA position. (To give you some perspective, back in Michigan my normal winter job pays $13/hour and has no benefits, and I pay $800/month for an apartment.)

My fiance really, REALLY wants ot go for it, because it's his chance for a new start. He has been working minimum wage for years, because and Associate's degree is not really worth anything in Michigan, and that's why we're not married yet, although we've been engaged for three years.

I seriously need to work as a TA, *NOT* a teacher, although I am open to getting certified if I can take classes while working as a TA. My fiance is in the same boat, but he doesn't have teaching experience (he is fantastic with kids, though, and has taught Sunday school.) Can anyone answer the question from this perspective?
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Re: Teaching in Alaska

Postby Johncn » Tue Sep 08, 2015 6:07 am

Stephanie,

Your service as a NPS interpretive ranger would be useful to NWABSD if you became a classroom teacher, residential assistant, or possibly a classroom aide (what you call a TA?). Although it could be outdated information, the NWABSD page for Classified openings (non-certified teacher jobs) they don't have anything listed that sounds like what you describe in Kotzebue other than Residential Dormitory Advisor at their Star of the North magnet program.

NWABSD Classified Openings
http://www.nwarctic.org/Page/2832

Residential Advisor Listing
http://www.nwarctic.org/cms/lib/AK01001584/Centricity/Domain/37/C16-002%20Resident%20Advisor%20R-19-01.doc

You can look at the qualifications and see if that is something that both you and your fiance qualify for or not:

Image

The other jobs they show on their site in KOTZ are either Bilingual Aide jobs (for Inupiaq speaking students), or pay less (around $17) than you describe. NWABSD benefits for classified staff are good, but do not appear to include housing. I would make sure you talked to Terry Marting (NWABSD HR Director) and clarify what you were offered. It would be quite unusual for a "Classified" position in a rural district to include the district subsidized housing benefits you describe. I do see the rents listed for Certified / Certificated staff, and their "Negotiated Agreement" (union contract) does have specifics:

NWABSD Pay and Benefits
http://www.nwarctic.org/Page/2828

Regarding certification, if you have a BA (which you seem to have in spades) and already enrolled in an accredited pre-service teacher training program (online or otherwise), and have passing scores on the PRAXIS Basic Competency tests, it MIGHT be possible to get an "Initial/Program Enrollment" teaching certificate. This would allow you to be paid at the same rate as certified teachers in every way, but you have to be within two years of finishing, and then they renew it annually with proof of continued progress.

Note: Only EED could clarify certification options for you...nobody here is qualified to give you information regarding such an important life decision. They are the final word on certification issues, and each person's qualifications and experiences vary widely. Best to contact them directly if certification is a long-term route you might consider.

https://www.eed.state.ak.us/TeacherCertification/

Initial / Program Enrollment Certification
https://www.eed.state.ak.us/TeacherCertification/initial.html#ProofofProgramEnrollment

Hope this helps,

John
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Re: Teaching in Alaska

Postby stephanie_schneider » Wed Sep 09, 2015 10:18 am

Thank you for replying with thorough and thoughtful information. I hadn't considered other certified positions, and it looks like I am even qualified for the position you used as an example. The teacher's aide (classroom aide) positions I spoke of were probably filled, since I talked to Terry Martin a couple of weeks ago. However, I spoke to a Yvonne over there yesterday, who seemed to think that I would have no problem getting an aide position next school year, although she put the odds of *both* of us getting work as aides at abot 70%.

The very confusing thing is that Terry Martin had told me that it would be possible to teach under a provisional certification, as you mentioned, if I was in the process of earning my certification. I also looked up UAF's distance learning post-baccalaureate program, and it stated that there was a Teaching While Training Option. I've copied the info from UAF's website below:

"The Teaching While Training Option is for candidates (teacher interns) who have secured a teaching position with an Alaskan School District. Generally, this option is available only to those candidates in areas of teacher shortage. Candidates complete the secondary postbaccalaureate licensure program over a period of 24 months."


Betty Walters from ATP also said that it is acceptable to be paid to teach while you are learning, as long as there is a shortage in that area.

HOWEVER--when I went to NWABSD yesterday to speak to Terry Martin again, he was not in the office, so I spoke with Yvonne. She said that, since I spoke with Terry last, a teacher who had come up to Kotz with the expectation of working while being certified (she had already been hired, completed paperwork, etc) had to be let go and sent home to the lower 48, because someone from the Alaska Board of Education said that it is illegal for a school to hire someone who is not yet certified.

So, I am now extremely confused. Why would UAF have a program listed like that, and why would Betty Walters claim people have been placed while finishing certification, if it is not only not true, but illegal?

Has anyone here been placed in such as way (as a "teaching while training" or "concurrent teaching" option in a cert program, or with a program half finished, and the understanding that you will be certified within a year?

Thanks again, everyone, for your time!
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Re: Teaching in Alaska

Postby Johncn » Wed Sep 09, 2015 10:43 am

Hi,

You are either certified or not. A status of "teaching while learning" does not exist, really. If students in UAF's program get the Initial / Program Enrollment CERTIFICATE from EED, then they are certified. It's an annual renewal, as I mentioned, that requires proof of continued progress and expectation of completion. The person Yvonne was speaking of likely failed to get the certificate renewed, and therefore became unemployed. It's illegal to teach or get paid as a teacher without a valid certificate.

Hope this helps. See my comments about contacting EED for your specific situation...which sounds complicated.

Regards,

John
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Re: Teaching in Alaska

Postby cyclone67 » Wed Sep 09, 2015 11:14 am

Definitely contact EED, they are very helpful and always respond quickly. I know of two teachers right now that were hired and are completing their student teaching / finishing their program while teaching this year. As John said, I bet that person did not square away their paperwork . Use this year to research and get in a program. I know you said money is an issue, but do you always want to be living from paycheck to paycheck? Working as a certified teacher would allow you to pay off those student debt early! Get that weight off your back! Also research what kind of tuition reimbursements are offered from district to district. I would also recommend researching if there is any assistance / scholarships if you agree to work in the bush.
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Re: Teaching in Alaska

Postby Bushteachers » Wed Sep 09, 2015 3:00 pm

cyclone67 wrote:Definitely contact EED, they are very helpful and always respond quickly. I know of two teachers right now that were hired and are completing their student teaching / finishing their program while teaching this year. As John said, I bet that person did not square away their paperwork . Use this year to research and get in a program. I know you said money is an issue, but do you always want to be living from paycheck to paycheck? Working as a certified teacher would allow you to pay off those student debt early! Get that weight off your back! Also research what kind of tuition reimbursements are offered from district to district. I would also recommend researching if there is any assistance / scholarships if you agree to work in the bush.



Pay off student debt early? Buhahahahhaha!!

Depends on how much debt one has incurred.

In all seriousness, if you have to do one more year of school to get that certificate, then do it. Teacher pay is much better than aide pay and normally benefits are better.
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Re: Teaching in Alaska

Postby cyclone67 » Wed Sep 09, 2015 6:51 pm

Sure it's possible!! She starts working for teacher pay versus what she is getting now and keeps her current lifestyle -- she could be putting 20K down ever year. I had a friend that paid off 60K in debt her stupid husband got in a little more than 2 years and she was a young enlisted soldier getting paid next to nothing! Even if you have 200K in debt -- I would rather pay it off in 10 years that have it your whole life!! She could stay in the area and do the interpretive ranger job in the summer for a few years and even rack up more money. Or find other employment over the summer. Student loan debt can be gone -- you just have to be motivated to scrimp and save or work extra jobs. And there aren't much better conditions for that than the bush -- where else can you get subsidized rent with no utilities to worry about???

OP: another scenario for getting certified you might want to investigate are Teacher Residency programs. There are several of them throughout the country -- usually in big cities. I know that Denver has 2, Seattle has one, plus several others. Anyways, they are made for people in your situation. As long as you have a Bachelor's you can get accepted and you teach under a mentor teacher during the day while you are getting your Master's Degree at night. You will be getting paid while you do this. I actually just read an article today that was saying that the teachers who get certified through this method have a much higher level of retention. You could do one of these and then come out to the bush when you are done!

Here is a link to some of them;http://www.utrunited.org/the-network

I actually went to an info session with the Boettcher Program in Denver. Seemed like a really good program, the logistics just worked out better for me to do another program.
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Re: Teaching in Alaska

Postby Bushteachers » Wed Sep 09, 2015 10:18 pm

Enlisted paying off 60k in a little over two years? That's more than double the salary right? Crazy. How many jobs did this lady work?

Student loans can be paid off. It would be a challenge. Let's be real. Not all districts give subsidized housing. Not all give no utilities. Not all bush communities are second job friendly. Not everyone can live in a village year round. Lots to think about. Heck even loan forgiveness isn't what it used to be. Quite a challenge to get even $5k forgiven.

Regardless OP, where there's a will. There is a way. Check all the options. Make the right decision.
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Re: Teaching in Alaska

Postby cyclone67 » Thu Sep 10, 2015 6:48 am

For the OP, just to give an idea of other districts, this is for BSSD. You can stay summers if you wish. Rent if you share is around 400 a month, no utilities. You can get on their HR site and check the negotiated agreement for salary and other benefits. If you are hired as a teacher it is VERY common for spouses and significant others to work as aides at the school or sub. He may also be able to pick up some extra money coaching. Summers are pretty free from mid May until end of July. Then people start showing up for different training events, welcome wagon, and in service. You could easily pick up a summer job in the lower 48 or AK.

As far as my friend, she lived like a monk (minus the wine drinking) the entire time. It is amazing how motivated you can get when your security clearance / job is on the line. But I know she sure was glad to be done with it! She'd probably still be making payments..... I'm all about paying debt (especially to Uncle Sam early). He gets enough already and doesn't need my interest payments!

Good luck with your future!
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