Teacher Abroad: Sara in Alaska

 
Sara-in-Alaska

I reached out to Sara a little while ago because I really wanted to feature teaching in Alaska as part of this Teachers Abroad Series. I know technically Sara isn't "teaching abroad" but Alaska is one of those places that is a world of its own, which is probably why I've always wanted to teach there! Unfortunately it can be a little tricky for South African teachers to get a teaching placement in the US of A, so I'll just admire Sara's teaching situation from a far ... 

KD: Tell us about yourself - who you are, where you are currently living and teach and your teaching experience.

SL: My name is Sara Lucas and I am currently living in Kenai, AK. I teach at Kenai middle school which is less than a mile from my house. I am currently teaching 6th grade Math and Science in the morning and Algebra in the afternoon. This is my first year in Kenai, but my 6th year teaching. I previously taught for 5 years in Toksook Bay, AK with is about 500 miles west of Anchorage. 

KD: What made you decide to teach in Alaska? 

SL: When I was about ready to graduate from Hanover College, in Indiana, I was able to attend a job fair close to my parents, and where I grew up. I jumped at the opportunity just hoping to get some experience interviewing, but not really looking for a job, as I wanted to leave the state. I was excited to travel to a new place and thought that there would not be many, if any, opportunities that would take me to a place other than the midwest. While there I looked for every opportunity that would allow me to travel to a new place. There were many mission type teaching positions that I visited with first, but quickly realized this was not for me. (I was a about to be a new grad with no money and these positions required me to fundraise my salary.) I then found the Lower Kuskokwim School District and signed up for an interview. I interviewed and loved the thought of going to Alaska. A few weeks later they contacted me for another interview with the assistant superintendent who was in charge of hiring recommendations. From there I was given the opportunity to interview with the new  site administrator for Toksook Bay. Almost immediately after that I was offered a position. I had no other offers at the time so I jumped on it. 

KD: What’s it like living there?

SL: Where I am at now is really no different from any small town in the United States. We have staples like Walmart and Subway. It is about 3 hours to Anchorage by car or a 20 minute plane ride. The biggest difference is the amount of flying or driving that I do here. When I do leave it takes me a while to get to where I am going. I also have done way more flying than I ever imagined since moving to Alaska 6 years ago. When I was living in Toksook Bay I would travel at least once a month and it was all by plane. Most villages are inaccessible by roads and the only way in or out is by air travel. 

KD: What do you love most about teaching where you are?

SL: I love being on the road system now. There were perks to being in a village with simplicity of life being the best part. I didn’t have many other worries outside of school. Everything in the village revolved around the school and life was easy. I am now thankful to live in a place where I can drive and go to a legitimate grocery stores (with fresh foods). I have also started playing hockey with a local women’s team, Kenai River Queens. I had never played before but am loving learning the sport and the great group of women it has connected me with.

KD: What’s the most challenging aspect of teaching in this part of the world? 

SL: The hardest part is being far away from my family. I miss out on a lot of family gatherings and functions, but I love the state of Alaska. It is a constant pull and one day I will probably try to move closer to my family. For now, I am happy where I am and know that I can always call home when I need to. 

KD: What advice do you have for others wanting to teach and travel abroad?

SL: My advice is to go for it! I have never regretted my decision to move to bush Alaska right out of college. I love to travel and getting a job in a far away place was perfect.

KD: How can I teach where you are? 

SL: Go to http://www.alaskateacher.org/. ATP is a great source of information, and has a database that posts all job openings in the state. They also host a job fair in Anchorage and attend a few others in the lower 48. They have a wealth of information for teachers who are newly moving to the state as well. 

 

For some reason it is always encourage and a pleasant surprise when other teachers enjoy teaching in rural communities as much a I do. I definitely have teaching-travel envy! Alaska will forever remain on my extensive list of teaching destinations for the future. 

If you would like to read more about Sara teaching in Alaska you can find her blog and Facebook account linked here.