Meet Bill Cornell, ECT veteran with 16 years teaching in Lake & Pen

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During his first year of teaching 16 years ago, Bill was mentored by ASMP mentor Cathé Rhodes. He says she continues to touch base with him, and they continue to visit one another.  Photo: Courtesy of Bill Cornell.

Growing up in Northern Michigan prepared me for the long, cold winters of Alaska, when I moved here 22 years ago this May. I initially moved up here to be a backcountry guide, fresh out of college form Michigan State University with a B.S. in Ecology. Working seasonally for five years made me want something more consistent, so I returned to school, this time at University of Alaska Fairbanks to get my Teacher Certification and work on my M.Ed. 

"Remember that mentors are people first, and good ones at that! Who else would be so willing to travel all over the state, sleep on school floors, and live out of a tote, all in the name of helping early career teachers?"

After completing my student teaching in Healy, I was hired on as the math and science teacher with the Lake and Peninsula School District in Southwest Alaska at Newhalen School. The great community, excellent kids (districtwide!), and sound district leadership over the years, has kept me here. I taught for eight years, and was then asked to step into the Curriculum Coordinator role. I have also served as an itinerant principal, Distance Program principal, and now as the Director of Personnel. The varied nature of the profession, and the ability to shift roles, has allowed for quite the adventure. 

I still remember the day Cathé Rhodes came to my class 16 years ago! That has led to a great relationship that is still going strong today; I actually just had dinner with Cathé last week in Palmer! She continues to touch base on where we are at, and what we are doing. Remember that mentors are people first, and good ones at that! Who else would be so willing to travel all over the state, sleep on school floors, and live out of a tote, all in the name of helping early career teachers? 

Success is all about relationships, and the more you devote to your relationship with your mentor, the more you will get from the experience. You also have to remember that they are not there to be evaluators; they are there to help you grow. This means that you can be vulnerable with your mentor, knowing that the goal will be progress. The second I realized this, I was able to welcome feedback from my mentor that impacted my practice.

After being in education for 16 years, it has been so rewarding to see former students become adults, and now their kids are coming up through the grades. The stronger your relationships are with those around you, the more enriching your practice will be. Alaska is also the biggest small state…relationships allow you to gain perspective, improve practice, and make your life easier.  Lean on those around you; you are a team. Commit time and effort to those relationships, and they will be one of the most rewarding aspects of the profession.

If you’re a new teacher, stick with it…teaching becomes even more rewarding, and easier, the longer you are at it. I think back to the first couple years of 12-14 hour days, heading home thinking about the things that still needed to be done, and shake my head. As with anything, the more you do it, the more efficient you become.

As I have touched on already, the relationships I’ve formed have been one of the biggest rewards of my career, but it is also important to not forget about balance, and the lifestyle an educational career affords. Any career brings its perks, and one of the perks of the education profession is having time to explore other passions and interests. Education afforded my wife and I to adventure all over Alaska and the world, and now allows us to spend large chunks of time adventuring with our family. A career should be the total package, and one thing education has going for it is an opportunity for an amazing lifestyle.

 

Read about our past featured teachers here:

Meet Michelle Fedran, ECT veteran with 5 years teaching in LKSD

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During her first and second years of teaching, Michelle was mentored by ASMP mentors Marylin White and Carol Jerue, respectively. She says "They were fantastic!" and that she was "thankful to have mentors, and loved working with them."  Photo: Courtesy of Michelle Fedran.


My name is Michelle Fedran, and I have been a teacher with the Lower Kuskokwim School District for five years. I spent those five years teaching in Tununak, working with lower elementary students. During this time, I have learned so much about myself as a teacher, my students, as well as learning about a new culture I wasn't familiar with until I came here. It has been an enriching experience and one that I know I will cherish forever.

"ASMP's mentoring program helped me as a beginning teacher to navigate my classroom in more ways than one."

I decided to come to Alaska right after college. As most teachers would agree, the first few years of teaching serve as a tremendous learning experience. ASMP's mentoring program helped me as a beginning teacher to navigate my classroom in more ways than one. I even continue to use the skills and tips I learned from my mentors today! It is one thing to take courses in college related to teaching and another to be in a physical classroom learning on your feet. I have found the things my mentors have taught me almost serve as a life jacket or anchor and help me stay grounded even when teaching can become chaotic. For those reasons, I am very grateful for this program and the supportive mentors I have been lucky to work with in my teaching career.

Meet Jacob Groll, ECT veteran, with 10 years teaching in LKSD
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A ten year vetran teacher, Jacob stands before a board in his Tununak classroom. Jake had an ASMP mentor 10 years ago. Photo: Cheryl Childers.

My name is Jacob Groll
. I have been teaching for ten years in the Lower Kuskokwim School District. I have had the opportunity to teach in two communities of LKSD. I taught in Chefornak for 6 years working as a 2nd and 3rd grade teacher and 4 years teaching in Tununak as the K-2 teacher. This was a great experience for me to learn a new culture as well as starting my teaching career.

"The state does a great job preparing for change and keeping teachers up to date on effective instruction in the classroom."

There is a wide variety of professional development for teachers in Alaska to help them grow and achieve their goals in the classroom. I took advantage of ASMP's mentoring and PD courses over the ten years and it helped me excel as a teacher. There is a wide variety of classes to take and learn about education. As we know, education is evolving and always changing and teachers need to learn to adapt to the change. The state does a great job preparing for change and keeping teachers up to date on effective instruction in the classroom. I love the adventure of teaching in Alaska and would do it all over again.