This section of our site is intended to answer
questions potential job seekers in Alaska are likely to ask.
And you should be asking questions. Working as a teacher in
Alaska – particularly rural and remote Alaska – is nothing
like teaching in the Lower 48. It can be incredibly
Alaska has opportunities, and challenges you
won't find elsewhere. It is important to be an educated job
candidate if you are going to find a good match for both
your professional skills and interests, and your personal
Alaska offers a wide variety of different
professional settings. Teachers tend to move around a bit in
Urban / Road System Settings
Teaching in the more urban, and road system
connected school districts in Alaska is much like working
anywhere in, say, the Pacific Northwest, but with arguably
better scenery and outdoor recreation access! Think "Moab
There is a great "small town" quality of life,
even in our largest cities. In these areas, well
resourced schools, a variety of after school activities
similar to Lower 48 locations, such as football and swim
teams, and school buses for the kids. There are also state
and city maintained roads, supermarkets, movie theaters,
dentists and doctors, ice rinks, and local television
stations. A residential housing market exists. World
class fishing abounds, hunting, snowmobiling, cross country
skiing, climbing and hiking are all readily accessible.
Alaskans are active outdoors year-round. There is even
access to surprisingly great downhill skiing from several
Southcentral communities, and a couple in Southeast.
Rural / Remote Village Settings
Teaching in much of rural Alaska, however, is still, in 2022, a true adventure. Hundreds of educators in the last two decades have traded all the comforts and normal routines they are used to for the chance to live and work in rural Alaska. They have moved to some of the last traditional Alaska Native communities in North America, where subsistence hunting and fishing, or commercial fishing villages, or remote logging camps. They have built meaningful relationships with students, and community members. In many cases, they have had more professional autonomy, in-service training, cross-cultural opportunities than any Lower 48 education career would have offered them. Finally, wherever you go in rural Alaska, the outdoor recreation, and wildlife viewing opportunities statewide are really off the charts.
Many of these educators originally came for a
year or two, but ended up staying for a decade, or even the
balance of their careers. Others do come for just a few
years of the experience, and then go on to other endeavors
with lasting memories of their Alaska adventure.
Teachers, and "teaching couples" in rural Alaska tend to move from site-to-site within a district every few years, or move to other districts. Teaching in the Bush is a very portable profession in a high demand niche. Teachers in the urban districts tend to have more typical career paths with longer stretches in a building, or even in a class or grade level.
The rural teaching lifestyle in Alaska is not
for everyone, though, and so we focus on that more than
urban settings. ATP wants you to know both the potential
rewards, as well some of the challenges. Check our Featured
Bush Educators page for links to teacher blogs and
books about their lifestyle and work life in rural Alaska.
In addition to this general overview page, we strongly encourage you to use the resources on this website to research in more detail the school districts, and village locations around the state before applying for a position. There are wide differences in settings, so do your homework!
Not only will districts be impressed when you
demonstrate your knowledge about them, they will realize
that you are a serious, informed candidate. School districts
really do want people working for them in their schools and
villages by choice, not by accident.
The ATP Applitrack Job Bank system allows you
to upload your resume information in a detailed profile, and
upload supporting documents, such as letters of
introduction. It gives you the ability to convince districts
that you know about their needs and setting, as well as what
sort of living and working arrangements you are
There are really two different worlds you need to understand when thinking about living and teaching in Alaska: urban and rural. The differences are striking.
Living or working in the urban areas of Alaska is much like anywhere else in the Lower 48 – but with better scenery and fishing! Urban in Alaska isn't "urban" like major cities in the Lower 48, either. Even Anchorage, Alaska's largest urban area, would just be a small city in comparison with most cities you've been to in your experiences in most US states. Juneau, in fact, would be considered a small town.
Sure, you may have to plug your engine block heater in up in Fairbanks to keep the car from locking up in winter, and you have to learn to drive on snow-covered roads. But, you still perform most of your day-to-day tasks the same way as you always have.
Your job search for Alaska's urban settings
will be much like a search with any school district in the
Lower 48. If are looking at for a position in Anchorage,
Mat-Su, Fairbanks, Juneau or Kenai Peninsula areas, you
don't really need to do things much differently in terms of
your search strategy. All of these districts have fairly
specific hiring procedures, and although your job search
here will link to their openings, you really need to also go
to their own Applitrack websites, and follow their
guidelines for applying. Download our Big Six
Explainer document here:
Cover all your bases with applying to Alaska's
urban districts, but realize that compared to rural
districts, their application process often has very specific
procedures that must be followed closely. Use ATP's
Applitrack searches, but make sure you know what other
requirements exist for jobs posted by the Big Six
The vast majority of Alaska not connected to
the existing road system – the Bush – is a hugely different
thing. There is much more on this topic on the About
In short, the only areas with any connection
to the major road system in North America are in the
Southcentral and Interior regions of the state. Two
highway connections cross over the border from Canada, and
communities around Fairbanks and down toward Anchorage and
the Kenai Peninsula are "on the Road System". The Alaska
Marine Highway (ferry) system connects communities in
Southeast Alaska all year, and along the Gulf Coast and
Alaska Peninsula only seasonally in the warmer months.
On this map, the red lines are mostly two-lane
blacktop "highways". The "C" road is the "haul road"
to the North Slope oil fields. There are unpaved roads that
link up to smaller communities along these areas, but other
than in towns, these are the only roads in the state. The
vast majority of Alaska is fly-in only, or "in the
Bush". There are some self-contained, mostly unpaved
road networks in a few remote communities like Nome, or on
several of the main islands.
Info Nugget: Just like
rural Australia, New Zealand, and parts of Africa, the
remote places in Alaska are collectively referred to as "the
Bush". In our case, the definition hinges on transportation
Technically, demographers don't really have a word that adequately describes our diverse and scattered collection of over 250 small villages, towns and remote outposts. See our About Alaska page for more details about our "Last Frontier" setting.
Alaska statutes define "rural" as meaning a community with a population of 5500 or less, and not connected by road or rail to Anchorage or Fairbanks, or with a population of 1,500 or less and still connected by road or rail (AS 14.43.600-14.43.700). The vast majority of the state of Alaska meets this definition. There are other definitions.
A study done by the Regional Education Laboratory at Education Northwest a few years ago found that about 64% of Alaska's districts, 53% of its schools, and 40% of its population are in the Bush (REL Northwest). McDiarmid and others have found that the majority of jobs for teachers new to Alaska are found in Bush settings. Teachers leaving Bush schools frequently are headed to road system districts. Therefore, if you are coming up from the Lower 48, it is not unreasonable to expect that you may begin your Alaskan career in rural Alaska.
Although statistically speaking, rural school districts lose more teachers in a typical year, this doesn't mean that all districts in the Bush have high turnover. In fact, a few rural districts have regularly had among the lowest turnover in Alaska. Turnover varies from year-to-year, site-to-site, and in relation to district leadership changes, as well as regional events and trends.
In fact, you may choose to make a career of Bush education. The respected role of career Bush educator is still found in Alaska. There are some very talented teachers and principals who would not work on the road system for twice the money, and all the fresh produce you could offer.
Many of these professionals have worked in a variety of villages over the years, and are almost living legends in education circles. Likewise, there are many well known "teaching couples" in the Bush.
Career Bush teachers and principals have made significant contributions to the lives of Alaska's village students, and are proud to excel in this particular niche of education. They have lived in, and raised their families in some of the most unique and spectacular settings on earth. Some have come up "just for a year or two", and never left.
Village residents are pretty comfortable in
their world, and skilled at living there. You it will
probably go better for you if you just accept that there is
a learning curve, and embrace the experience.
Newcomers need to view this is as a true
cross-cultural experience - whether they move to a Native
village or regional hub with more of a mixed population.
Check out our Featured
Alaska Teacher blogs and books for first hand accounts
of adjustments. You may also want to check out Ray
Everything is different:
Buying food and supplies, getting around, the smells and scenery, social expectations, and local lingo will all be different. Frankly, you will feel like you've landed on a different planet your first day off the plane.
Moving from the Lower 48 to the Bush is truly a cross-cultural experience. You can get some sense of this by reading our About Alaska page. This is like moving overseas in many ways. That is one reason that candidates with Peace Corps experience, or other successful situations where they have adjusted to another culture, are highly prized. We aren't trying to discourage you. Quite the opposite. But, we do want to help you make informed decisions. It's better for all concerned in the long run.
Be aware that the vast majority of district interview teams will not lie to you. They don't want to replace you at Christmas, and they definitely have a vested interest in making you successful in their schools. If you ask the right questions about the village they are considering you for, you most often will get an honest, candid answer.
How do you become an informed candidate in the eyes of the school districts?
There is a national teacher shortage, and
educators who have experience, or are finishing a
traditional teacher / administrator preparation program can
go pretty much anywhere they want in the United States right
now. Alaska teacher recruiters are struggling to find
enough high quality candidates to fill their positions.
So, what are some of the factors that would
make Alaska a good choice for you?
Most rural, and many urban Alaskan schools with low income
populations are eligible for three
teacher loan forgiveness programs, depending on the
type of loan you have. There is an official database
of which schools qualify as "low income" by year, which is
linked below, and a new "Loan
Repayment Simulator" tool to compare different
Important: You can get credit for service even if that job was in the past, not your present position.
There are very specific criteria for each
of these programs that allow some teachers in low
income schools to get part, or even all of their loans
paid off. The rules vary by loan type, certification area,
school, and number of years you teach there, but range from
$5,000 to 100% of your teacher loans forgiven or cancelled.
The number of Alaska schools eligible for TCLI designation does not vary much year-to-year, but there are some slight differences, and you must actually verify a school's status for each school year you work there. Be aware that although the vast majority of rural Alaskan schools qualify, there are exceptions in communities where parental income statistics are skewed by commercial fishing or other sources of income.
Ranking the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Programs
Use the handy
program comparison overview to figure out a strategy
based on YOUR specific loan types. For example, you can't
use both Teach Loan Forgiveness (TFL),
which is school building specific, and Public Service Loan
which is "organization / employer" specific, at the
Studies of successful Bush teachers in Alaska identified the following characteristics:
Although an older resource, the excellent 1981 collection of articles by rural Alaska teachers about working with, and connecting with learners in cross-cultural settings is still very useful for those preparing to teach in the Bush:
You should also be aware that multigrade schools are quite common in the Bush. These have three or more grade levels combined for instruction, and require some quite different skills than a graded classroom.
We have some links on our Multigrade Teaching
page that should help you understand how and why education
in this setting is both challenging and rewarding.
If you are looking for practical information, don't skip
over Bruce Miller's excellent 1989 work from NWREL called The
Multigrade Handbook. Do not be misled by the
publication date, or grainy scans. This is still a very
relevant and valuable resource for anyone thinking about how
to organize for instruction in a multiage or multigrade
school setting. It has examples, and research-based
conclusions about the nuts and bolts of multigrade classroom
Finally, one of the best sources of information is our ATP Forum. Post your questions about requirements, districts or villages. Anonymous postings are fine. You may be surprised who responds...we have many experienced Bush teachers, district administrators, and Alaska EED officials subscribed!
Good luck, and let us know if you find resources we should add, or discover broken links.