New Teacher's-The Alaska Teaching Experience
Starting out as a new teacher can be really scary but it can also be a time of adventure. The coolest part about being a teacher is that we can pretty much find a job anywhere, "anywhere" that there are children. I've been a teacher for 7 years now and my first teaching job was on a remote Alaskan island in the middle of the Bering Sea (St. Lawerence). This island was closer to Russia than Alaska, and in fact you could see the Siberian coastline on sunny days. I taught 6th grade there for 2 years and had 16 amazing Siberian Yupik Eskimo kids, who spoke broken English (as well as Sib. Yupik), whale/walrus hunted with their families, listened to Rap on their walkman, and native danced in Niki clothes. And yes, I did it all while being a single female teacher, right out of college.
Now, I never planned on putting my butt on some remote island in the middle of the Bering Sea, but I did plan on going to Alaska for an adventure. I went to a teacher job fair in Portland, OR (where I was going to college) and ran up to the "only" Alaska table in this huge auditorum (which by the way had the shortest line) and said "I want to go to Alaska where do I sign up?" They smiled at me, I went through an interview and 8 hours later I had a contract offered in hand. It took me another 12 hours to decide if the island thing was really for me, but I def. had the support of my family and friends saying "why not, your young, you can do anything for a year", the more research I did on the island the more excited I got, and of course there was prayer. It turned out to be an amazing experience, even though it included some of the hardest times I've ever gone through-still I wouldn't change a thing. Some people ask me "weren't you scared", honestly, a bit nervous, but def. way more excited. What I was surprised to find out is that you are never really alone when you teach in Alaska "anywhere" but mainly in the bush.
After you sign your contract, the principal will give you contact numbers of the other teachers who will be working with you. These teachers are usually veterans, know the ropes, and are happy to help you. During teacher inservice in the fall, you meet the other teachers who will be with you (a lot of them you have talked with already at this point) and a lot of bonding happens. I relate it to going to summer camp and being put into a cabin with a group of people that you know you will be with all summer, and you know that these are the people you will have to rely on for everything (mental sanity, food sharing, advise, shoulders to lean on, fun activities, anytype of help..). Besically, you meet what will become your second "family" for the upcoming year or years to come (depending on how long you stay). The bonds you make here def. last a lifetime. This is how it was for me, I never felt alone for a second.
I have taught now for 7 years in Alaska (5 of those years in rural bush villages) and have lots of advise and experiences to share. Currently I teach in a town on the edge of Denali National Park. I'm very thankful for the opportunity to teach in Alaska and I would suggest it to anyone who had a positive attitude and a little sense of adventure. The benefits here in Alaska are awesome, the profession development opportunities in the rural areas are great, money is good...kids are amazing..but it's not for everyone. If you are interested in teaching in Alaska, visit Alaska Teacher Placement on the web.