Featured Teachers Corner

Meet Julia Boynton, teacher in Aniak for 11 years


Julia began teaching in Aniak, Alaska in 2012. She is currently teaching 4th/5th Grade at Auntie Mary Nicoli Elementary School in Aniak, Alaska. She has taught various grade levels, coached, tutored, led outdoor activities, and shared a wealth of experiences with students here in our village.

Julia shared that she was fortunate to have two different Alaska Statewide Mentors during her early years of teaching. Mary Downs was the first mentor she worked with and she was a wonderful resource when Julia was new to Alaska and teaching. During her second year of teaching her mentor was Karen Doyle. Karen was able to support and guide Julia in her teaching instruction. Mentor Karen also taught some wonderful art lessons to Julia’s class. 

One thing that Julia will always remember, and she’s glad to see current mentors doing the same, is how mentors would bring fresh fruit and vegetables to ECTs when they visited. Being new to living in a village, and off the road system, it can be difficult not having fresh fruit and vegetables readily available. This was a huge adjustment for Julia personally. She truly appreciated the care and support that her mentors provided both in the classroom and for her own personal well-being.

Julia’s husband was also a mentee of the Alaska Statewide Mentor Program and is currently the Student Services Director for Kuspuk School District. They have two young sons and enjoy all the outdoor activities that living in rural Alaska provides such as snow machining, boating, fishing and moose hunting.


Julia Boynton with her husband and two children in Aniak. Photo Courtesy of Julia Boynton


Harlee Harvey, previous Mentee with ASMP, is Teacher of the Year for 2022-23


The Department of Education and Early Development announced that Harlee Harvey at Tikiġaq School in Point Hope has been named the 2023 Alaska Teacher of the Year.

Harlee has been teaching at Tikiġaq School in the North Slope Borough School District since 2014, teaching both first and fifth grade. According to the DEED website "Her peers commend her for her knowledge and respect of the Inupiaq culture. Similarly, her decision to make Point Hope her home and become involved in the community outside of the classroom has helped earn her respect and facilitates connecting with students."

Harlee was the Mentee of Mentor Kirstie Willean (2013-16). Read more about Harlee in the October 13, 2022 Arctic Sounder.

Harlee agreed to be a Keynote speaker at our fellow program Educators Rising Alaska's Statewide Leadership Conference in February. We have included the video of her keynote, where she discusses her path on becoming a teacher, the challenges she faced, and her continuing education toward attaining her PhD. She is introduced by one of EdRising AK's student officers, Jennifer Bell.

Meet Cory Hughes, 5 year veteran teacher in Nunapitchuk


Cory Hughes finds a moment for  mentor Cheryl Childers to take his photo at his Anna Tobeluk Memorial school classroom in Nunapitchuk .  Photo: Cheryl Childers.

Cory "Aigailnguq" Hughes

I student taught in Wilmington High School in New Wilmington, PA. This is my 5th year, and Anna Tobeluk Memorial in Nunapitchuk has been the only school that I have taught at. I'm certified 6-12 Social Studies, but I have taught ELA and many different elective courses.

Carol Jerue was my mentor for my first two years of working in Alaska, and we still keep in touch to this day! Carol was instrumental in helping me to organize my younger classes. Before moving to Alaska, I had never been in a classroom outside of true High Schoolers (9-12th graders). So, as you can imagine, structuring my J.H. classes was definitely something that was foreign to me. Carol helped me to find different and engaging ways to organize class. Carol was also able to provide support in the way of finding supplemental curriculum/ideas.

"Carol helped me to find different and engaging ways to organize class."

Oh man, what is personal time? Just kidding! I enjoy hunting, being outdoors (especially if it involves a machine, i.e. Snow-go, boat, 4 wheel, etc.), and any athletics that I can get involved in. Currently, nearly all of my free time is spent working with either the state Educators Union (NEA-AK) as a regional board member, or the local branch (LKNEA) as the local president.

Bo and Leah

Bo and Leah Sahr pose briefly for a photo in her Anna Tobeluk Memorial School classroom in Nunapitchuk .  Photo: Cheryl Childers.

Leah Sahr
I started my student teaching in the fall of 2016. For my first placement, I spent 3 months in Kipnuk at Chief Paul Memorial School. The other half of my placement was in Chilton, Wisconsin at their local high school. This is my 6th year teaching. I have not professionally taught at any other school other than ATMS – Anna Tobeluk Memorial School. I was hired directly after graduation and NUP was the only site that had an opening for both Bo and myself at the time. One could say it was fate. :) 

I am certified in secondary science and have a minor in biology, plus an area of emphasis in earth science. I have taught a wide variety of science classes, many of which I never envisioned myself teaching (e.g. astronomy, forensic science, physical sciences). I have also taught JH and HS art, CLS/PLS, and study skill classes. I enjoy the variety and like the challenge of teaching outside my content area.

Carol Jerue was my mentor for my first two years. Carol took the time for me to verbally communicate my reflections and wonderings in person instead of communicating them via email. She knew that was what I needed at that time. Additionally, when I was a new teacher, one of the things that held me back was my lack of confidence.

"Carol was my biggest cheerleader and always made sure I noticed the things going right in my classroom and the small victories that eventually turned into larger ones."

Carol was my biggest cheerleader and always made sure I noticed the things going right in my classroom and the small victories that eventually turned into larger ones. Carol was an amazing mentor and truly impacted me and my professional career. I am so thankful our paths crossed. She was there for me during some of my most formative and difficult years. 

In my personal time, I enjoy participating in outdoor activities like hunting, fishing, and hiking. I also like to draw and watercolor paint. Additionally, I LOVE listening to podcasts (Stuff You Should Know, Stuff You Missed in History Class, and Ologies).

Bo Sahr
I did my first student teaching in Tununak, Alaska in the fall of 2016. I then finished my student teaching in Rice Lake, Wisconsin. It was about 2 and half months at each placement. This is my 5th and half year in Nunapitchuk. I have not professionally taught at any other school. I love teaching here!

"Carol helped me gain confidence in the classroom. She acknowledged my successes and supported me through the ups and downs of teaching."

Carol Jerue was my mentor for my first two years of teaching. I absolutely loved having Carol as my mentor! Carol helped me gain confidence in the classroom. She acknowledged my successes and supported me through the ups and downs of teaching. Carol always went out of her way to help me when needed. I will always be grateful for the help and support she gave me in those first few difficult years of teaching. 

In my spare time I enjoy hunting, fishing, and camping. I also enjoy creating outdoor videos for my YouTube channel. 


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 (district-wide!), 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.

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


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

A ten year veteran 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.

Do you know a teacher who has been mentored by ASMP, or are you an ASMP-ECT graduate? We would love to print your story!