An SMSU ELED alumna recently returned to Minnesota from Alaska where she taught for a year. I wanted to hear all about her adventure so we sat down with a cup of coffee and this is what I learned. Cancer sent her to Alaska. Cancer brought her back home.
Emily hopped on an airplane with her husband to move to Alaska because her friend Sarah (also an SMSU alumna), who is battling a genetic skin cancer, asked her to come. Sarah invited Emily to travel to Alaska because she wanted her son to be around strong women. Emily, being that strong woman who has survived cancer herself, was concerned about her friend’s health, so off she flew…to help care for her friend and her friend’s son.
Sarah and her son…
While there, Miss Emily taught in the Lower Kuskokwim School District (LKSD) in Bethel, Alaska. She shared why she believed this school was a great district. She also shared a little advice on preparing yourself for their tribe world if you would choose to teach there.
BONUSES of Teaching at Bethel
DOWNFALLS of Teaching at Bethel
|Respectable salary (She started at $59,900)||Extremely high cost of living. $60,000 in Alaska would be like $30,000 in Minnesota.|
|Decent insurance through Integrity Insurance with a $100 deductible.||Medical facilities aren’t the best and she got sick right away with Bethel Crud because of different air quality, water, etc. Medications had to be flown in from Omaha, NE.|
|Housing available.||High rent. Spent $250 a month for 900 gallons of water, which is supposed to last a month for everything…showers, washing dishes, flushing, etc. Yikes… 😮|
|Back-to-school professional development conferences offered with dynamic speakers and breakout sessions and the district covers the cost.||Professional Development Conferences are held in Anchorage, Alaska, which is an hour away—by plane only.|
|Learned and taught specialty classes such as berry picking, fishing, mouse food hunting (yes, you read that correctly 😮 ), and more.||No prep times in Bethel. You teach all day long.|
|Hot lunch for the students is guaranteed each day.||Some of the food served is old, expired.|
|Students work hard and give their best.||7% of students pass state tests in math.
5% of students pass state tests in English.
50% of students graduate from High School.
Kids are failing.
|Some students have IEP’s.||A three-year IEP, and no SPED teachers so paraprofessionals become the SPED teacher.|
|The people are kind, humble, and truly care.
|Many broken homes, addictions, violence. and suicides. Many children have some kind of trauma going on in their lives.|
|Cooler temperatures.||Common to have fifty below zero temps.|
|Wealthy because of the oil.||Extreme poverty because of the oil. The government gives the people a SMALL amount of this wealth each year. She believed it to be $1000 a year.|
|School is the safe place for the students.||Harassment and bullying happens in school. 😦|
One other experience that Emily shared made me wrinkle my nose, which would be offensive in Bethel. Sorry Bethel, Alaskans.
Are you a fish eater? I LOVE fish, especially salmon. However, NOT to the extent that Emily learned to eat it while in Alaska. The people of Bethel believe in subsistence…nothing is wasted. It is a matter of survival. For example…Emily ate every part of the salmon. She said the eye socket was her favorite. It tasted like prime rib. Eeew…I’m sorry, I couldn’t do it.
Emily’s dad is now wrestling with cancer. Because of the uncertainty of this, Emily hopped back on a plane and came home to be with her family. Welcome home, Emily.
Sarah, who still lives in Alaska, is doing better and taking a chemo pill. Emily’s dad is also doing well for now because his cancer is in remission. That is wonderful news! Thank you, Jesus, and please continue to bless both of them, Lord.
Teacher candidates, if you would like to teach in Alaska, Emily highly recommends considering the LKSD in Bethel. She would love to visit with you anytime about the opportunities there.
Mouse Food Hunting
Bethel Student Fishing
Miss Emily and her kids and Emily gets all photo credit