Saturday, March 3, 2018

Same District, New Job

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind. Well, if I'm being honest, this whole year has been a whirlwind when I take into consideration the craziness that has been this pregnancy and general life/teaching in the bush. It's been a wonderful year, but a busy one. Weighing heavily on Cody and I's minds this year was what we were going to do next year. We really love Pilot Point and have enjoyed living and working here. There are quite a few things working against us staying here for next year though. For starters, we have no childcare. Cody would have to stay home with baby, which he and I were interested in doing, but he wouldn't have any other young families/parent groups to socialize with here because our village is just so small. Also, the lack of healthcare and inaccessibility of it has been heavy on me. It costs $1,100/person to travel to the hospital in Anchorage and unfortunately our school's insurance doesn't cover health services in our village.

With these two issues weighing on us, we eventually came to the decision that we needed a change for next year. I began speaking with my district administrators about moving to one of our northern villages for next year. Our northern villages have much better, cheaper access to Anchorage and there is a clinic in one of the villages staffed by a PA that our insurance will cover. So, I proceeded through the second half of this year thinking I'd probably be calling one of these villages home soon.

Then, I found out that our district's Registrar was retiring and that they were combining his position with the position of Teacher Mentor. The district advertised that they wanted a current LPSD teacher to take the role because they wanted it to be someone who was already familiar with how we do things. I applied on a bit of a whim and told myself that the job was a total shot in the dark, especially since I heard that many others were applying too. I interviewed and tried to remain optimistic, but I had strong hunch that it wouldn't work out.

Well, I was wrong! The district offered me the position of Registrar/Teacher Mentor for next year. The position will actually be located in Palmer, Alaska, which will be a HUGE change since Cody and I haven't lived in a road system location in over six years. I will be traveling some and will still get to spend time in our villages helping new teachers adjust to life in the bush. Most of my time will be spent working remotely from our new district office in Palmer though. It'll be a huge adjustment and very different than being in the classroom, but I am super excited for this next chapter.

With all of this new knowledge, we've been adjusting to what our new lives will entail next year and starting to panic a little bit about moving with a newborn. The next couple of months are sure to be crazy. In less than a month we move to Anchorage to have the baby, then sometime before May 15th we will be moving back to Pilot Point to start the packing process, sometime in late May I am going to spend a couple of weeks training with our current Registrar, and then in June we will be relocating to Palmer. While it will be crazy, I am really optimistic and hope this will be our last move for quite some time. This will be our fourth city we've lived in over the last 7 years and I'm hoping it's the one we get to stay in and raise our child. Fingers crossed for a smooth transition!

Your turn...Have you ever made a big job switch?
Currently listening to...Good People - Jack Johnson

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Videos for Teachers Interested in Rural Alaska

It's that time of the year! In many Alaskan districts (including Lake & Pen) contracts have gone out and the hiring season is getting ready to begin. As always, districts across the state are looking for quality teachers to join the ranks out in the bush. Making the decision to move to rural Alaska isn't an easy one, but there are many good resources out there to aid you in your research. One of the many great resources out there are videos. There are tons of videos out there on YouTube and school district websites. Below, I've compiled four of my personal favorite videos that I recommend checking out if you're thinking about making the leap to become a teacher in rural Alaska.

Bushed: Teaching Life in Rural Alaska
This is a four-part documentary series, and even though it is long I would highly recommend watching all four parts of it. The couple in it does a wonderful job of looking honestly at some of the challenges that come with being a teacher in rural Alaska. When I was first researching teaching in Alaska this series helped me so much. The wife from this series maintains a really great blog, which I recommend checking out too. BONUS - This family is a total success story because they still live and teach in rural Alaska!

KTUU Teaching in Alaska: Pilot Point School
This one is about us! KTUU (an Alaska news network) came to Pilot Point a few years back and shot a special about teaching in Alaska. It does a great job of highlighting the pros and cons of teaching in such a remote, small village. The teachers in it are also great, and one of them actually still works for our district just in another village. I watched this one more than once before making my decision to move to Pilot Point and found it super helpful. This video will be particularly informational if you're considering a one or two teacher site.

INDIE ALASKA: I am a Whittier Teacher
INDIE ALASKA does a lot of really amazing videos, which I highly recommend checking out. This one in particular is great because it follows a teacher in Whittier through her daily life. Whittier isn't exactly a Bush community, but it isn't exactly a normal community either. For anyone unfamiliar with Whittier, it is a small community south of Anchorage that is only accessible by tunnel. In addition to this oddity. Whittier's entire 200 person population lives in one building. This teachers story is super interesting and she has some good insight into living under a microscope, which is inevitable as a bush teacher.

First Year Teacher Adjusts to Life in Rural Alaska
I think this one is super informational because the teacher in it is a first year educator who has only been in Alaska a few short months. She discusses the intensity of being somewhere so rural and some of the difficulties that come with teaching in the bush. She addresses homesicknesses and texting her family to tell them she's ready to come home, which I think is something some new teachers don't always realize will be so amplified in the villages. Her principal also makes a guest appearance to talk about what makes teachers successful in rural Alaska.

There are so many other great videos out there, and I highly recommend you watch some of them before making the leap. As always, some of the videos you find will be from educators who had successful experiences and some are from those what had not-so successful experiences. It's important to look at all sides before you jump into such a big decision though and listening to people's firsthand experiences can be super helpful with that.

Your turn...Do you have any great video suggestions about where you live or your profession? 
Currently listening to...Heavy Feet - Local Natives 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A Holiday Celebration

As of 4:00pm on Tuesday Pilot Point School is officially on vacation for the next two weeks! Leading up to the vacation, which was much needed, we had to get ready for our annual Holiday Potluck. Potlucks are a big part of village life and in Pilot Point we typically have one every month. The Holiday Potluck is probably our biggest of the year because the students also perform at it and Santa comes to pass out presents. Even Cody had to get in on the Santa action - haha.

This year, the performance part of our event was titled "An Alaskan Christmas." We performed the play "The Sourdough Man" which is based on the classic story "The Gingerbread Man." Our play
was much more Alaskan-based. The story took place on the tundra and the animals were all Alaskan animals - musk ox, arctic hare, ptarmigan, etc. The kids did a wonderful job performing.

After wrapping up the play, we performed a song called "The Alaskan 12 Days of Christmas." It was a fun little version of the classic song with Alaskan animals substituted for the traditional lyrics.

The kids worked really hard to practice and get ready for their performance. They were happily rewarded with heaping piles of goodies on the tables for the potluck portion of the evening. It was a fun evening and everything went smoothly. It was also an exhausting day though - full of set-up, baking, performing, and cleaning. As fun as the event was, it was also nice to come home at the end of the night and put my feet up. Luckily, I now have two full weeks of putting my feet up and relaxing.

Your turn...What are some of the Christmas traditions where you live? 
Currently listening to...Joy to the World - Nat King Cole 

Monday, November 20, 2017


October was a busy month, which I'm sure all of you could have figured out by my lengthy blog silence. On top of our state of almost constant motion in the school, I was also suffering through some tough pregnancy symptoms. Throwing up became a constant annoyance in my life. By the time October ended I was actually 15 lbs lighter than I was at the start of my pregnancy, which didn't thrill my doctor since I am already a fairly small person. Fortunately, by the time I hit 16 weeks the doctor had prescribed me some wonderful medications and I was able to start to return to a more normal state of being. Unfortunately, I had to go all the way to Anchorage to be prescribed anything worthwhile. The views on my travels from Pilot Point to Anchorage were spectacular, but the need for a barf bag was not. 

After I returned from my little journey to Anchorage, things only seemed to get busier. Our all-staff inservice was in middle of October and I had to travel to King Salmon for four days of meetings and trainings. Thankfully, I did get to spend quality time hanging out with a few of my favorite teachers and I made another pair of beaver fur mittens (this pair I gifted to Cody since I made myself a pair last year). 

Towards the end of the month we hosted our annual school Halloween Party. It was a blast, as always, but also a ton of work. In the bush, the school is the center of all of the action in town, so the turnout for these kinds of events is pretty large. Amber (the MS/HS teacher), Cody, the parent committee, and myself put a ton of effort into cooking food, decorating the school, making games for the kids to play, and organizing the event. It was all worth it though to see how much fun the kiddos had at the party. 

As the month ended, we said goodbye to our nice, beautiful weather. October actually gave us some rare sunny days and I got the opportunity to get out and do a little hiking and adventuring before the weather turned. It was a wonderful break, especially after September gave us nothing but rain and wind. 

Now that it is November, we have transitioned into winter pretty firmly. Snow has fallen on multiple occasions, the wind is at an almost constant roar, and the temperatures are sitting firmly below freezing. I'm sure I'll be posting pictures of a winter wonderland here before too long, and I really don't mind the weather changing because it just means we are onto another season of adventures and one step closer to our biggest adventure - parenthood. 

Your turn...How was your October? 
Currently listening to...Zombie - The Cranberries 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Baby Middleton, Coming April 2018!

Cody and I have some big news to share, and we are very excited that we can finally say...

we're expecting! Baby Middleton - coming April 2018!

That's right, I am working on growing our little adventure babe as I type this post. Today I entered my second trimester and baby is growing right on track. Being pregnant in rural Alaska has definitely already been an interesting experience, as it is truly not like being pregnant anywhere else in the US. Typically, when you're expecting, you take a nice little drive to your OB once a month. When you live in a rural village though, the nearest OB is very far away.

Since August I've already taken two solo trips to Anchorage for appointments, which has been an expensive endeavor. It costs $800-$1,000 to fly from Pilot Point to Anchorage roundtrip and insurance will only reimburse me for two roundtrip flights (and one of those flights has to be my trip to give birth). As long as all looks well with Baby M, I'll probably only be going to the doctor every 6-8 weeks until I am farther along. Once I make it to the 36-37 week mark (March) I will have to relocate to Anchorage for the remainder of my pregnancy. Cody and I are currently looking at renting an apartment from the middle of March until early May.

The last couple of months have been a complete whirlwind for us. We're so incredibly excited and thankful. I can't wait to see how the next year changes our little family for the better.

Your turn...Any suggestions for a first time mom?
Currently listening to...I Don't Mind - Defeater 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

We're Back!

Cody, the dogs, and I landed in Pilot Point in mid-August. We spent the days before flying back to the village in Anchorage buying enough groceries to last us a couple of months, going to doctor's appointments, and enjoying our last days in civilization. Anchorage is always hectic though, so when we finally took off it was so nice to fly low over the tundra and see the little village from above. After our busy summer and week in Anchorage, I was excited to get back to the slower pace of life in the village. I was also incredibly touched by our decorated truck waiting for us at the airport. The people in Pilot Point truly are the best.

The slower pace didn't last for long though, which is why it's been so long since I've posted. The school year seemed to begin at a breakneck speed this year. We had a handful of new students join our school this year and a new teacher too. Our school year schedule is also much different this year because our district petitioned the state to do a test run with a "Subsistence Calendar." The Subsistence Calendar is something we are trying, which involves operating a shortened school year from the beginning of September to the beginning of May.  The district is choosing to run it this way because many of our students are out participating in subsistence activities with their families from June - August and attendance tends to be poor. Also, by running a shortened school year we were able to save our budget and avoid cutting essential services and positions. You can read more about it here and here.

Somehow, in the midst of all of the insanity of the beginning of the school year, we've also been trying to make time for our own subsistence activities. We've been fishing, collecting plants, picking berries, and Cody has been taking advantage of the bird migrations and has been hunting geese and ducks. Our at-home time seems to be minimal, but that will shift a bit as the weather changes. It's already fall here on the Alaska peninsula and the winter weather is undoubtedly not far away. We had our first snowstorm in mid-October last year.

As the weather changes, I suspect some of the insanity that the first weeks of school have brought will die down too. I usually love the slow pace of fall and winter, so I can't wait to get into that part of the year. The time of laying on the couch and reading good books while drinking cocoa, or watching movies while eating freshly popped popcorn. I'm definitely looking forward to those days in the very near future.

Your turn...Is fall starting to settle in where you live? 
Currently listening to...Ends of the Earth - Lord Huron 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

July Travels

July was another whirlwind month of travel. Cody and I were apart while he visited family in Illinois and Florida. During that time, I was road-tripping back from Virginia to Illinois and enjoying a week of rest and relaxation at my mom's house. While back in Illinois at my mom's house, we still managed to get into some shenanigans. Early in July we hosted a 4th of July party at her house, and we convinced the dogs to pose for adorable photos in their patriotic outfits. Then, later in that same week we drove to Milwaukee for Summerfest. At Summerfest, we got to see Tom Petty, Christ Stapleton, and a bunch of other awesome musicians perform.

About mid-month I headed up to Michigan to stay with my dad and his family. The first week that we were there my dad and I took a spontaneous trip up to Beaver Island. Cody and I lived in Beaver Island for a couple of years and I taught at the school there, so it was a blast to spend time visiting friends and former students. The gorgeous, Bahama-like beaches and weather didn't hurt either.

After our trip to Beaver Island, dad and I headed back to SW Michigan (where he lives), and Cody flew into Grand Rapids the next day. Reunited with Cody, we both then had a blast spending a few weeks in Michigan. My dad's house is on the beach, so we swam every single day. We also hiked Mt.Baldhead, watched sunset at Oval Beach, enjoyed a visit from my college bestie, and a million other fun things. I was sad when July came to a close and Cody and I had to leave.

Now that we are officially into August the countdown to heading back to Alaska has begun. We leave to go back to our village in less than a week. While we are both super excited, it is also bittersweet. This summer has been such a blast. We've spent so much quality time with family, and we've also had non-stop adventures. This school year should bring about some big changes for our family though, which I am pretty excited about, so I will be happy to get settled back in at our little village home.

Your turn...What fun things did you do in July?
Currently listening to... Tennessee Whiskey - Chris Stapleton