Friday, April 29, 2016

Pilot Point, Alaska

So far, I don't know a ton about Pilot Point (aka PIP).  Mostly, it's just hard to find information about the village because so few people live there.  I did stumble across this blog, which is written by someone who previously lived and taught in the village. I've also talked to the principal quite a bit and the current teacher who I am replacing.  Honestly, I'll be pretty stoked to get to the village and start learning more about it firsthand.  That's always my favorite part of moving somewhere new anyways.

One of the things that I do know is that there are between 65-80 people living in PIP. This will be a HUGE change from our lives in Juneau, a town a 30,000 people.  It will be a smaller change compared to our lives here in Northern Michigan on Beaver Island, which boasts only about 300 year-round residents.  PIP is only accessible by airplane, another non-adjustment for Cody and I because we haven't lived on the road system since 2011.  However, that, coupled with the low number of people, will make it the most isolated place we've ever lived.  The isolation is probably going to be one of the biggest adjustments to our lives, and we are certainly thinking about how our lives will change (for better or worse) because of this isolation.

Because of the small population, the school is in danger of closing almost every year.  In Alaska, a school must have ten children enrolled to stay open.  Pilot Point will have 11-14 children enrolled this year, in grades K-11.  The school only has two teachers, and they must work very collaboratively to serve the wide grade ranges.  I'll primarily be working with elementary students for core academic subjects, and I'll also be serving as the sites Head Teacher (think added responsibility when the principal isn't on site and lots of paperwork). Another random factoid that I've learned, thus far, is that there are three school-owned teacher housing units.  There is a one bedroom, a two bedroom, and a four bedroom. The one bedroom is strictly used for the principal or other itinerant staff when they travel to the village. All of the houses have basic furnishings (furniture, washer/dryer, etc) and are located only steps from the school doors.

Businesses are hard to come by in the community, but there are three establishments: the grocery store, the post office, and the medical clinic. The medical clinic sounds similar to the Beaver Island Rural Health Center that Cody and I currently use.  There is a medical professional on-staff, but you have to be flown to Anchorage for anything serious (on BI we have to be flown to Charlevoix). As, for the post office, mail will be slooooow.  Think, like, ordering something and waiting six weeks for it to arrive.  Lots of planning is going to be needed for holidays and such. All of our household goods will have to be mailed to PIP from Beaver Island in Rubbermaid totes WAY in advance.

The information I've gathered so far has definitely been eye opening.  No matter how much we learn, I do not doubt that this move will be a huge change and adventure for my family.  At this point in our lives, we feel totally up to the challenge and overwhelmingly excited to get moving on everything.  It'll be fun to share this new adventure on the blog, and I hope everyone is looking forward to the shift in content!

Your turn...What are some interesting facts about the town that you live in?
Currently listening to...Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - 40 Day Dream

Friday, April 22, 2016

Lake and Peninsula School District

In my last post I announced that I would be accepting a job teaching in the Alaskan bush for the upcoming school year.  The school district that  I will be working for is the Lake and Peninsula School District.  I'm super excited to be joining the LPSD team and thought I might share a little bit of the information that I've learned about them, so far.

1.) LPSD is located on the Alaska Peninsula.

2.) None of the communities in the district can be reached by road.

3.) There are three national parks and two national wildlife refuges within the districts geographical boundaries. 

4.) The main office is located in King Salmon, which is where I used to live, but none of the district school sites are located there. 

5.) There are about 10,000 brown bears living in this region, which is more than the number of people. Eek! 

6.) Wolves, wolverines, moose, caribou, otters, whales, red fox, harbor seals, and sea lions are just a few of the other animals that call this region home. 

7.) The yearly staff inservice will take place at Katmai Lodge in Katmai National Park in early August.  I visited Katmai National Park in 2010 and wrote about it here.  It's also the place where the infamous Grizzly Man documentary was filmed. 

8.) The district operates on a standards-based system.  For you non-teachers, this means that students master skills/standards and move on to new grade levels, as opposed to receiving traditional grades. This allows for more flexibility and individualization.  Last year, the school I'm currently teaching at adopted this system, so I'm feeling pretty confident about using it. 

9.) Winters are not as extreme as they are in the interior region of Alaska. In fact, the winters will be milder than the ones we've grown used to experiencing here in northern Michigan. 

10.) Fall and spring are very muddy seasons and require a good pair of rain boots.  (Thankfully, Cody and I invested in Xtratuff boots when we lived in Juneau.) 

11.) Housing is provided to all teachers, with basic furnishings and utilities included. 

12.) Many people get around on ATV's or snowmachines because there isn't a need for cars at most sites (no roads). 

13.) Hunting and fishing are very popular because families in the villages still live very subsistence-focused lives. 

14.) Berry picking is another popular hobby, which I am stoked about because I love berry picking and canning. 

15.) There are thirteen schools in LPSD and I'll be working at Pilot Point!

Your turn...What are some unique things about your job/job location?
Currently listening to...Big Black Nothing - Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Chasing My Dreams to the Alaskan Bush

It has been over two years since I wrote this post detailing Cody and I's desire to pack up and move our entire lives to the Alaskan Bush. Anyone who knows me knows that this has been a dream of mine ever since I took that fateful job in King Salmon, Alaska in 2010.  That summer opened my eyes to a demographic and lifestyle that I frankly did not know existed in the United States.  In that odd environment, I thrived.  I loved the simplicity, the minimalism, and the community feeling that is brought on by cultural connections and the hardships of a unique lifestyle.

Years have passed since I wrote that post and many things have changed.  We moved away from Alaska after spending a few years living and loving in Juneau.  We headed back to Michigan, the state of my birth and the home of many family members.  We moved here with every intention of settling down and trying to assimilate back into life as lower 48 residents.  The problem being that we didn't move to a place that screams "civilization."  Instead, we moved to a remote island that felt more like the Alaskan bush than Juneau ever did, which meant that the urge to live rural never went away.  It just intensified.

With that, I've spent the last two years wistfully thinking about the dream that I gave up.  It seems that I will always have that "what if" feeling when it comes to Alaska.  Because of that feeling, I've decided to take the leap.  I've accepted a job, which is both terrifying and exhilarating. The job will be taking me all the way to the Alaska Peninsula, near the Aleutian chain.  Cody and I will both be working for the Lake and Peninsula School District.  The village we will be living and working in is a tiny fishing village, only accessible by bush plane, with less than 100 residents.

I am excited and terrified to leave my little bubble on Beaver Island.  I love my students and my job here, but it all boils down to that "what if" feeling.  Could I live forever knowing that I'd never chased my dreams? The answer was a resounding "no."  So, here we are.  Packing up our lives, yet again, and heading north for another great adventure.

Your turn...What is one of your lifelong dreams? 
Currently listening to...Juno - Tokyo Police Club

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Animals at School

Beaver Island is such a rural place that we can often get away with things that big, urban schools cannot. One of the many hilarious things that we are able to get away with is bringing pets (and other animals) to school.  Our principal brings her black lab with her to school everyday.  The kids take her dog to recess, to lunch, and all over the school with them.  They've been begging me to bring Specks and Luna to school all year.  Luna is still a little too crazy and a little too skiddish to be out and about with children, but Specks is the perfect candidate for a school dog.  He hasn't worn a leash in years, he's a former service dog, and he loves children.  Last week, I decided that the time was finally right and brought him in for a visit.

He had a blast! I let him stay for 1/2 the day and then I sent him home at lunch with Cody.  The kids read him stories on the carpet, played fetch with him, and gave him roughly 1,000 belly rubs.  It was heaven for Specks and a great treat for the class.

Later that week we had another animal visitor.  Our school's music teacher has a farm and they recently had a baby goat born.  She offered to bring the baby goat, which we then affectionately named Bud, into the classroom for show and tell.  Me being me, I offered to babysit the goat for a few hours.  The goat was only four days old and the kids had to be very responsible to help care for such a little baby.  It was a fantastic learning experience.  Plus, isn't Bud ridiculously adorable?!

Your turn...Do any cute animals ever visit your work/school?
Currently listening to...Teenage Wasteland - The Who