Education in Rural Alaska

teaching in rural alaskaTeaching in Bush Alaska offers a unique opportunity for teaching—and learning—in a community and a culture like no other. Connect with other rural educators through NEA-Alaska’s educator forum.

Most Bush communities (or villages, as they are usually known) can be reached only by small airplane, and travel from place to place is typically accomplished with snow machines, four wheelers, boats, or dog sleds.

The Bush is sparsely populated, and in western and northern Alaska, indigenous peoples make up the majority of the population: Aleut, Yup’ik, and Inupiat. Athapascans live in rural villages in Interior Alaska and Tlingit/Haida/Tshimshians in Southeast. Most villages are marked by thriving culture and language and traditional ways of hunting and fishing. It is crucial for you as an educator in the Bush to understand that this is a true cross-cultural experience.

Listening and observing will serve you better than any other behaviors you may choose. Tolerance, flexibility, humility, and patience with yourself and others are essential personal qualities for a successful Alaska Bush experience.

PARSA

The focus of Delegate Assembly is to meet annually to set the direction for the organization by way of resolutions, new business items, legislative priorities, and approving the organization’s budget.

Across Alaska, members from local associations get together to discuss important issues they wish to have addressed by the statewide organization. They select a time and place to meet and develop ideas they wish their delegates bring to the annual meeting. However, this is not always possible for some locals due to the remoteness of members and their lack of proximity to each other. The solution to this problem became clear many years ago and PARSA (Policy Assembly for Rural and Small Associations) was created to help bridge the distance between these remote local associations.

PARSA provides the opportunity for delegates to come together to discuss and plan to ensure their voices are heard within the larger group as the statewide business meeting is conducted. Each rural and small local can send their delegates to this pre-meeting before Delegate Assembly.

PARSA serves two primary functions: to train new delegates to function effectively at DA, and to act as a focal caucus for rural and small school issues. Training includes the following topics:

  1. PARSAWho is NEA-Alaska
  2. Purpose & Procedures of Delegate Assembly and PARSA more specifically
  3. What are Resolutions and NBIs, how to write them, and get them to the Assembly Floor
  4. What Communities Do
  5. Practicing Debate
  6. PARSA Committee work

Delegates attending PARSA have found the experience valuable in understanding the process and concerns brought forward at Delegate Assembly regarding our statewide organization as a whole.

To give you a better understanding of PARSA, please take a few minutes to watch this video.

timm nelson

Profile: Timm Nelson

Timm Nelson teaches in the Village of Noatak, Alaska. Noatak is 60 miles north of Kotzebue with a population of approximately 500 people. Nelson grew up in Washington State, originally coming to Alaska after college seeking interesting things to do, not necessarily to teach. He has taught middle school and high school social studies in Noatak for eight years.

Nelson says the challenge of teaching in the village is preparing for multiple classes and subjects. He enjoys the smaller class sizes of 10-20 students, which allow him to really get to know the students. Nelson has also had the opportunity to get to know his students’ families very well. He has been surprised at how accepted he has felt in the community and how he has been invited into villagers’ homes.

Nelson’s advice to others who are considering teaching in rural Alaska is to make a conscious effort to become a part of the community. The worst thing a teacher could do is “live” at school. Instead, he encourages new teachers in rural areas to get to know community members, kids, and families. He suggests participating in local events and activities.

Alaska Native Knowledge Network

Resources for compiling and exchanging information related to 
Alaska Native knowledge systems and ways of knowing.

Learn More

Jazmin Lavelle, ME 002

Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development

The Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development’s website provides a wealth of village-specific information, including, but not limited to school district student/teacher ratio, dropout rates, percentage of Native students, expenditures per student and geographic cost differentials.

Check it Out

New to Alaska?

Check out our resource page for educators who are New to Alaska with blogs, news, and tips on living with our state’s wildlife!

Looking for a Job?

Check out the Alaska Teacher Placement website.

Cultural and Family Organizations

For a list of family and cultural organizations in Alaska, visit our In the Classroom page.