When I think back to the May of 2011, when I got the phone call from LYSD for the initial interview then job offer, I remember being SCARED. All my life I'd lived in Oregon, within driving distance of my entire family. Sure, it was 6 hours home from La Grande, but only a few hours either direction on I84 to a sister. Then living in Medford, I was blessed with the best roommates ever, my auntie and uncle. So, imagine my fear when, after a SHORT pause, I agreed to sign a contract and move to a remote Alaskan village called Alakanuk (which I tried to write out phonetically so I'd remember how to say it...) After some overwhelming tears on the roomies' couch, a celebratory dinner, phone calls to the parents, grandparents and those I consider my role models and mentors, it began to sink in what I had just done.
I'll admit that there were many times that summer that I thought about calling and backing out of the contract, but continued encouragement and support helped me to make the move to Alakanuk. I have said MANY times over the past 3 years that it is the best move I've ever made. I've posted repeatedly how grateful I am to those who encouraged me to give it a shot, even if just for a year.
Over the past 3 years, I really feel like I've become part of the community. Each month I live here I meet someone new and make connections of who is related to who. I am happy to say I know the first and last names of every student K-8, and the vast majority of the high school. I know parents' and grandparents. I have built relationships with most of the kids as I talk to them about hunting, snow machining, and basketball or by being goofy.
This year has been a very difficult year for me professionally. I feel as if I have been constantly held back from my full potential, being told I am unable to attend/participate in a variety of activities and professional development opportunities. Each time I am told no I go through a conversation with myself trying to decide if I am just bitter and being a baby about being told no, or if it is more.
Up until Christmas break, when asked how long I was going to live around here, I was telling people that I planned to retire from LYSD, and more specifically Alakanuk. However, after some extremely frustrating and trying conversations and events, I was doubting my decision to stay here. I spent many hours crying and praying for an answer as to what I should do next year. I consulted my family and some respected friends/coworkers/peers. I have gathered opinions, listed (only in my head, too lazy to write them out) pros and cons, and thought long and hard about what to do.
Contracts were handed out mid-February. I lost mine on my desk for a while, but found it after getting home from ASTE. I have to say there were a few things that swayed me greatly.
The first, and perhaps most influential, is the reaction I saw when I got home from ASTE on Thursday. I was met by concerned faces of students and staff as they wondered if I'd been sick and why I'd been gone so long. The bear hugs, "I missed you!" and "I love you!"s warmed my heart and was a huge check in the "stay right where you are" column. Second, I have some phenomenal coworkers in Lower Yukon School District. Attending ASTE with a few of them and seeing how they are changing the lives of their students for the better every day, inspired me to be better for my kids here in AUK. It completely reenergized me and ignited a fire within me to make a bigger difference for my students here. Third, on Friday I was able to snow machine over to Scammon Bay to watch our boys play in the championship game for our region. A parent told me that the last time AUK was in the championships was in 1988 (good year, eh?) and it was in our home gym. (Some of you may remember that we were supposed to host the regional tournament this year, but our new school still isn't done and our principal as well as district staff postponed until next year when our site is more able to handle the extra bodies in the building.) As I watched our boys play their hearts out I felt so proud. I was proud of each individual player for his effort to fight through the poor calls, the fatigue, the frustration. I was proud of their teamwork. I was proud of the coach for rising above the poor calls, encouraging his players, and showing what it means to be a Brave. I was proud to be part of the positive crowd. I am pleased to say I did not notice a single AUK fan cheering against the Scammon players, everyone was simply cheering FOR our team. For the 2 1/2 hour ride home Friday night, I continued to pray. I thanked God for the positive people around me, for the community He has placed me in, for the experiences and friendships I've gained. I also thought about my family, both in lower 48 and here. I weighed moving into the interior or even south, as compared to staying here.
At the end of the weekend, after a few more conversations, I decided to sign my contract. I scanned and emailed it today, and placed the hard copy in site mail. As of now, I'm staying in AUK. However, I suppose I could have the option of a transfer if things get too bad here.
I truly am grateful to all of you who listened to me, sometimes through tears, as I considered my options. Thank you to those of you who have inspired me to be a better teacher, a better role model, a better person. Thank you for the encouragement, words of wisdom, and different perspectives to each situation.
Here's to another year of learning, teaching, and being involved in the community. Here's to a year of positivity, keeping my head down to get things done, but keeping my chin up. A year of more adventures, more laughter, more fun. Here's to year 4 in Alakanuk!