Program Stories

Integrating teaching into the subsistence lifestyle

“For me teaching began as a special education aide, helping in classrooms for Bering Strait School District in northwestern Alaska in 2009. Being from the region, I share a lifestyle and perspective that gives me an inside connection with students and even other teachers in the school district. In fact, it was at the encouragement of other teachers that I chose to pursue full-time teaching. But the path to achieving a teaching certification was not an easy one.

I am in a busy time of life. I am a loving father of six and have two grandchildren as well. In addition to a full family life, I am Iñupiaq, and I live a subsistence
lifestyle which means I reserve time throughout the year to hunt and fish and put away food for my family. I received an emergency certification to teach fourth grade from the state of Alaska.

Three years ago, I started the SILKAT and Sabbatical Pathway coursework with six other aspiring teachers, and I liked how well the program fit into my life. Being able to continue to be employed [in the school] while you are taking classes is really beneficial to my family. If it were a choice between working or taking classes I would have to choose to work because the bills are there.

[University of Alaska, Fairbanks] quarters often line up with the end of the school year, which allows me and other SILKAT participants to focus on our coursework and training. I would say, no matter how hard it gets, don’t give up and communicate with your instructors. The biggest thing I got out of this program was communicating with my college professors. Having that communication helped me get through this program and I have used that to develop a really good relationship with the principals I work with. If I struggle with teaching a topic, they’re able to give me ideas.

Previously, I coached high school boys basketball for ten years. This year, I began coaching with the Little Dribblers in the spring but this had to be put on hold when I started teaching. I accompanied the team to a tournament in Teller, AK and our team won the tournament. We were just happy! This was the students’ first opportunity to travel since COVID-19 and half of the team were my students. [The] kids got to make friends and meet new people from another community, shoot around.

I’m looking forward to having more time to put into work and home when I graduate from the program. Being able to better my ability to teach will be a
benefit to my community.”

This story is a condensed version of a conversation with Tyler Ivanoff from May 2022 and is shared with Tyler’s permission. He is currently teaching 4th Grade for Shishmaref School and pursuing a degree in Elementary Education.