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.

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Teaching in Alaska

Postby GeorgiaGal93 » Tue Mar 22, 2016 6:16 pm

Hello!
I have posted before asking about what it is like to live in Alaska, I got so many helpful, and truthful answers! Thank you to everyone who answered all my questions (no matter how dumb they were). Being a southern girl from Georgia, I have to say moving to literally the other side of the country scares me. My cousin participated in this program 2 years ago, and also answered many of my questions--some I did not even think to ask!!
So IF I participate in this program, I know that I want to be in a city, or small town in the Southeast or South central area. I may be a small town girl that can "rough it" but roughin' it in the south is TOTALLY different from roughin' it in Alaska! :D

So my point of this post is not so much about Alaska in general, but more specifically about the school systems. What are the worst or best school systems (and any particular schools would be great too) in the Southeast or South central areas of Alaska? As I am completing my teacher program here in Atlanta, I am realizing that just because you are in a certain area doesn't mean the school you are in will be as awful or as awesome as you thought!

Please keep me posted!
Nikki
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Re: Teaching in Alaska

Postby jamieburgess » Fri Mar 25, 2016 7:57 am

Hi Nikki -

Most districts in Alaska fall into two categories - on the road system, and not. The road system districts are larger, and tend to have access to most of the "amenities" you are used to in the lower 48 - restaurants, a variety of shops/stores, libraries, entertainment, etc. Within those districts the size of the actual towns may vary widely. Districts which are not on the road will vary widely in what is in the town. Some districts have a main office in a "hub" - a location where you can fly to a variety of destinations, with some of their schools located in small "fly-in" villages. Seems like you are more interested in a district on the road system by your desire to locate to south central (Anchorage, Kenai, Mat-Su) or southeast (Juneau).

As far as which districts are good/bad, there can be a lot of fluctuation in various areas, often dependent on the current leadership. And your definition of good/bad may not be the same as the next person. Some "look-fors" are how long the current principals have been in place, how long has the current superintendent been in place (leadership turnover can indicate struggles, but it can also mean a shift in direction by the school board). The road system districts will often pay a little less than the rural districts, and rural districts often provide furnished housing for much less than you would normally pay for an unfurnished unit + utilities (utilities can be very expensive) in a road district town/city.

I personally came from a very suburban background (metro Denver, metro Phoenix) and am in a small, rural district. I think I have weathered my transition quite well and have found a lot of things to enjoy about my little Yup'ik village. I researched a lot, asked a lot of questions on this board, and didn't have any unrealistic views of what living here would be like. My district has had its struggles, but I have truly enjoyed my time here. You'll meet a lot of great people wherever you go, and you'll have some tough days in the classroom no matter where you end up teaching.

I suggest you start researching and applying now for districts. Hiring is well underway in many places. Also, ask lots and lots of questions on this board - everyone is very helpful!
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Re: Teaching in Alaska

Postby jblaile » Sun Apr 03, 2016 2:37 am

Hi!
I too am coming from large, suburban (Phoenix, St. Louis) school settings to Togiak, AK. It is off the road system and I am excited beyond belief to be part of the fishing village and Yu'pik people! I am not unfamiliar with travel and living conditions in Alaska, but have a lot to learn, I'm sure. My biggest challenge right now is figuring out how to "move" there. I'll be in teacher housing which is furnished with the big stuff, but I need to bring the rest....does anyone have a checklist of what NOT to forget? What have you found to be the most economical way to get food and household goods there? I've read buy it all new or ship it or.....go without, I guess. :D I'd appreciate anyone's advice/feedback.

My plan is to drive my car to Anchorage (from Wilmington, NC) and store it there (in a friend's private airplane hangar) so it is there when I return to Anchorage or when I eventually go back to the lower 48 (which I hear doesn't happen very often...hahahaha). Advice on that? Sell it and take the cash for living or keep it until I need it again....

Thank you for ANY advice.
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Re: Teaching in Alaska

Postby jamieburgess » Tue Apr 05, 2016 7:35 am

Don't sell your car until you are sure you plan to stay, especially if your friend is allowing you to store your care free of charge or at a very low cost. Your district may fly you in to a conference in Anchorage occasionally, and it's good to have a vehicle to use for running errands, as opposed to paying for taxis everywhere. If you do return to the lower 48, you will probably need your vehicle.

As far as what to bring, I was in a similar situation last year. I mostly furnished my unit off of Amazon, which worked out pretty well. A subscription to Amazon Prime is a must for living in the bush. Your new district will probably give you a new teacher packet with a list of items. Some things you are better off waiting until you get into your unit, because the prior occupant may leave some items behind (microwave, coffee maker, etc.). Your new district may have a nice person who can get into your unit after the prior occupant vacates and see what is there.

If there are no curtains in your unit, you'll definitely want them for bedrooms. My unit had blinds, but they did not keep the room very dark, and with the sun not going down until midnight, you'll want curtains or an eye mask to get some shuteye in fall and spring. You may want a box fan (there is no A/C and if your unit well-insulated it may get warm in the fall and spring), but I'd wait until I arrive and then order it.

If you search through the archives on this forum, you'll find a couple of excellent posts regarding shipping items to rural Alaska. If I could give people one piece of advice, it's if you ship items up in boxes yourself through the post office, make sure to stuff any empty spaces with packing materials and reinforce/tape the corners of your boxes thoroughly. My family sent me several care packages in Priority Mail boxes, and they got pretty battered getting up here!
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Re: Teaching in Alaska

Postby marymatt718 » Tue Apr 05, 2016 11:26 am

I have stored my car in Anchorage for 3 years at a place called International Self Storage. I like this place because it's reasonably priced ($85/month and hasn't gone up in the 3 years I've used it) and it is across the street, sort of, from the Motel 6 which is where I usually stay because of my dogs. I don't get into Anchorage very often, so I let teachers I trust use my car when they go in. This way it gets started every few months and I don't have to worry about the battery going down over the winter. In exchange, it always has a full tank when I finally get around to being able to drive it, and they pay to change my oil every once in a while. One couple even had it detailed for me (she was a clean freak...no complaints here!)
When I do get to Anchorage, Motel 6 picks "the boys" and me up in their FREE shuttle; we check in; and after dropping eveything and everyone off, I walk across the street and pick up my car. I do the same in reverse when I go back out. This arrangement is so convenient, that I am leaving my car in Anchorage instead of moving it to Fairbanks when I move to Galena for next year.
I keep my car because it is convenient, but also because I drive home to Texas to visit my family. My dogs are too big to go on a commercial airline, so we drive back and forth. I highly recommend it at least once. It is a long drive, but it is beautiful most of the way...Alberta is a little boring, but TIDY, so tidy. I think I would keep my car even if we didn't make the drive. It is so nice to have your own space and comfort in a strange place, to go where you want to go and do what you want to do without worrying about how much mileage you're racking up.

By the way, GeorgiaGal...have you checked out Togiak yet? (Shameless plug alert! :roll: ) It is an easy bush location to be in, and the winter is mild for Alaska. I am leaving because my dogs are getting on in years and I want to have better vet access. There are a number of open positions which I listed in my post IT'S TOGIAK TIME, along with the reasons these positions are open. Check us out. It isn't perfect here, but no place is perfect. I can promise you that you will be comfortable and among friends in Togiak, and that is NOT the case in many bush communities. (I admit it: I am totally shameless! :D)
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Re: Teaching in Alaska

Postby marymatt718 » Tue Apr 05, 2016 12:01 pm

BTW to jblaile and anyone else who is planning to drive to Anchorage from the lower 48: get a CURRENT copy of The Milepost which is the road atlas for driving into and through Canada, and into Alaska. The current edition lets you know about any serious road issues and hotel closures, new gas stations, closed gas stations, etc. I just ordered my copy for for this year's drive down and back for about $25 off of Amazon.

The Milepost also has a lot on information on what to do and what not to do at border crossings and driving through Canada...such as, don't speed in Canada: if you're caught they COULD put you in jail for up to 3 days! Needless to say, I NEVER speed in Canada...often...much. ;)

And stay off the Cassier Highway unless you think you absolutely need to drive it. I did it just to say I had, and because I had some extra exploring time...but not because I was speeding through Canada or anything ;) . The Cassier Highway is 450 miles of NOTHING (with spotty cell service to no cell service all along the way) with ONE GAS STATION along the entire length of the highway. It's pretty, but I kept getting stuck behind all these logging trucks and didn't make good time (or gas mileage since I have an SUV to accommodate my boys) and coasted into that ONE GAS STATION on fumes. It was horribly expensive to buy gas there, but I was so glad to find the place, I didn't care. I also ended up sleeping by the side of the road in my SUV with the dogs...which, to be truthful, we did a lot on the way up...but this was so isolated, and so "out there" that I was really grateful that I have ginormous dogs who would decapitate anyone or anything that threatened me...plus I had my can of wasp spray, which works as well as, if not better than, pepper spray and will spray fairly accurately to 20 feet...a tip once given from the husband of a real estate agent.

Safe travels y'all!
MM718
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Re: Teaching in Alaska

Postby jblaile » Wed Apr 06, 2016 1:58 am

Excellent and very helpful. Thank you! Yes, I'm planning on driving up and one of my AK bush pilots offered to ride with me, so I feel very safe. Waiting to hear from my school on a site contact to talk me through this process.

On another note, I"m having trouble finding the classes I need for certification online. I halfway thought about waiting until next spring semester as I think I'll be SO busy with moving and teaching in a new school. But, I also though coursework might help fill those long, lonely hours outside the school/village. Advice on that?

One more - a teacher leaving the village has a 4 wheeler she is selling. Our housing is 3.5 miles from the village - a 7 mile roundtrip for mail, which I wouldn't mind in good weather, but Togiak isn't known for it's beautiful climate. :D Helpful to have? Is a bicycle an option at all? I love to ride and run...
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Re: Teaching in Alaska

Postby jamieburgess » Wed Apr 06, 2016 6:51 am

If you are referring to your multicultural and Alaska History classes, check with your new district to see if they offer something as part of their new teacher orientation - many bush districts do. If not, one good option is to take them through ASDN (www.asdn.org) - those are relatively low cost and are self-paced. You may want until you arrive, as there is a discount on the courses through ASDN for staff from certain districts.

Otherwise check University of Alaska - they offer those courses as well.
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Re: Teaching in Alaska

Postby Johncn » Wed Apr 06, 2016 3:15 pm

Hi,

Jamie is right about the ASDN and other class options. You'll have two years to complete the courses by distance, and almost everyone waits until they arrive in Alaska to deal with them. It's possible to do them sooner rather than later, but not common.

Regards,

Johncn
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Re: Teaching in Alaska

Postby jblaile » Wed Apr 06, 2016 4:42 pm

Yes, I'm going to wait until I get there and get settled. Thank you!
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Re: Teaching in Alaska

Postby marymatt718 » Wed Apr 06, 2016 6:03 pm

jblaile and others hired for or contemplating Togiak,

The Southwest Region School District helps you complete one of your courses at a SUBSTANTIAL savings over the $500 the course would normally cost you...just another one of the benefits of coming to work in Togiak. (Yes, that was a shameless plug! ;) )

One of your Alaska courses will be offered by Esther Ilutsik who is the district's Director of Yu'pik Studies for SWRSD. It will cost you about $75, and the district will loan you the books. You get credit for it through UAF. You will attend a class every Monday night for about 2 hours during the 1st semester of the school year in the Distance Delivery Room in Togiak. Esther will teach the class by distance delivery from the Dillingham office. You will have assignments to turn in some weeks and some weeks you lead discussions on parts of a total reading assignment. She will have registration forms at New Teacher In-service for you all. This course is a BARGAIN!

You can take your second course, called Alaska Alive! through ASDN (Alaska Staff Development Network). It will cost you about $510 (so now you see what a bargain the district's course is!), which includes buying the books and other materials. You have a minimum of one month to a maximum of a year to finish the course once you have registered for it. You write papers and a final lesson plan and submit them on-line. A teacher grades them. You will get the credits through Alaska Pacific University. You can then order the electronic transcripts for both UAF and APU on-line and, once you get them, send them electronically to AK EED. These are the ONLY transcripts that AK EED will accept electronically. I know all this because I just finished all of this last December for my Professional Alaska certificate. Don't panic; we will take care of you here in Togiak. (Yes, that was another shameless plug! :D )

You do not ABSOLUTELY NEED a 4-wheeler in Togiak. The principal lets teachers take a school vehicle on Tuesdays and Fridays to check mail and shop. It is on a first come-first-served basis. If the vehicle is full (it seats 5), someone doesn't get to go or gets crammed in the back end. I didn't have a 4-wheeler during my first year in Togiak. I borrowed one my second year, and was so happy with the freedom to go and do as I pleased, when I pleased, that I bought one and never looked back. It is NICE to have one for the freedom to check your mail when you want to, to shop when you want to, to go exploring when and where you want to (with others for safety, of course) to RIDE to school on snowy, icy days instead of walk, to be able to go to the school at night to do work without having to worry whether or not there is a bear nearby that you can't see (no, I am not joking about that). Some of the best parts of Togiak are out away from the village, and you can't easily walk there, not safely. The decision to get a 4-wheeler depends on how much YOU want to see and experience, how much freedom you want. It is not a necessity. You will survive without it. You will thrive with it.
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Re: Teaching in Alaska

Postby kazachka » Fri May 06, 2016 8:13 pm

Has anyone used International Self Storage recently? Are they safe? Secure? Anyone have the current cost for 8 weeks? I have a couple possibilities (friends' driveways) in Anchorage I'm waiting for confirmation on but I fly in 3 weeks when school is out and need a place to park. No one is answering now after hours. If they are totally closed on Sundays I may be up a creek, but wanted this as a backup. Also is there 24 hr access for pickup? I get in at 4am (yuk I know did it at winter break too not fun)and don't really want to lollygag for a few hours jetlagged and zombified from 2 days of flying waiting for someone to open up.
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Re: Teaching in Alaska

Postby marymatt718 » Sat May 07, 2016 7:21 am

International Self Storage is VERY safe and secure. I store my car there all year. It is NOT open on Sundays, but you can get in to have access to your vehicle. There is NOT 24 hour access however. You have access from 7 am to 8:45 pm; after that a big iron gate comes down and closes the whole place off. The office hours are Mon to Sat 9 am to 6 pm. I pay $85 a month for storage of my car.
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Re: Teaching in Alaska

Postby kazachka » Sat May 07, 2016 10:43 am

Sounds good save for I'll need to find a couch in Anchorage the night of the 28th then. 7AM openingeh???? After hauling back from Moscow that wait will seem like an eternity and there is really nowhere to lollygag waiting somewhere that early in the morning.
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Re: Teaching in Alaska

Postby Adrianna » Sun May 08, 2016 10:41 am

Start researching your little heart out. Check the districts. Look on youtube. Youtube has videos of different villiages. For example the Bering straight school with its district office in Unalakleet Alaska has recruitment videos for teachers that highlights all the places one would teach. Also personal videos done by residents of different places. So check on youtube and research as mentioned amazon prime will be your best friend, get used to shopping for everything. Its twofold you have to bring so much in. But also shop at your local village store and get to know people. Shop at Costco in anchorage and its a great idea to keep a car in anchorage for shopping and sightseeing when your in the big city. But the biggest thing and ive already said it is. You need to research shopping lists and amazon prime is a great way to start. But every single thing that makes things comfortable from hangers to dish soap, sheets, food, water, etc you have to plan ahead. Do you like fresh fruet and veggies or have particular dietary needs then look at different programs for people living in the bush. Even if you want to live on the road system or in the bush plan ahead. The parks highway which is the major highway between anchorage and Fairbanks is the major highway. If you teach at a school on the highway or just off the highway and a snow storm happens or a flood or a crash you can be stuck and may have to sleep at the school or cant get to work. I grew up in the mat-su valley in the northern end and we had that happen a few times. So plan ahead its Alaska. Hell you could get a blizzard with white out conditions in anchorage in the middle of the city. Also be prepared for moose when you drive and bad driving conditions. Alaska is a state but its not like any other state. Its up to you to research and if your going to drive the alcan/cassier to get to Alaska. Then plan your journey with the understanding that you will go for hundreds of miles and maybe see a big truck but nothing else. Plan first aide kit with emergency equipment, sleeping bags, tent camping is ok but I recommend car camping if your in bear country. Plan a cooler of food, maps, bug dope im not kidding mesquito repellent, sun screen, mesquito netting if your really worried. Think about what your going to do if a moose appears in front of your car, what about other animals, extra gas, extra ropes, tire iron etc. plan plan plan and mile post mile post milepost that beautiful book will help and you can look up the milepost on the internet as well. Good luck enjoy my beautiful state!!
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Re: Teaching in Alaska

Postby michellemedlin » Mon May 09, 2016 1:13 pm

I'm going to Togiak too!!! I'm going to be teaching 1st grade. I am hoping to fly out of Oklahoma City around July 19th... What grade are you going to teach - have you been assigned your teacher housing? (I'm probably getting B-2 I was told). Do you have pets? I'm bringing my 2 little chihuahuas. I'd love to connect and have someone to be excited with and share information and ideas!
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