Did you know that graduates of UA schools of education have recently been recognized for empowering their communities?

The awards exemplify how alumni from accredited education programs at UAS, UAF, and UAA carry their love of learning into the world and apply it to teaching. Individually recognized for innovation, each attributed their success to a collaborative process. 

  • University of Alaska Southeast graduate Teresa Dl’a Gwa T’awaa Varnell of Ketchikan, the 2022 Sealaska Heritage Institute Teacher of Distinction, trains teachers to incorporate Alaska Native cultures into their teaching methods.

    “Teresa’s ability to guide conversations among educators on Native cultural values, societal structures, intergenerational trauma and the history of boarding schools has helped us open an important dialogue,” said SHI President Rosita Worl in a UAS press release. “These conversations can be challenging and uncomfortable, but she has helped create a community where people feel safe delving into these topics.”

    Varnell comes from a family of Haida weavers and uses those skills to integrate traditional knowledge into contemporary learning systems. She weaves culture into conversations and those strands carry on into the world with each receptive mind.   
  • University of Alaska Fairbanks graduate Harlee Harvey, from Point Hope, is the 2023 Alaska Teacher of the Year.

    "I think that willingness to innovate, ask for help and listen to the feedback that you're given from people has probably been the thing that's allowed me to be so successful," Harvey said in an interview with the Arctic Sounder.

    “Ms. Harvey’s investment in the students of Point Hope is a shining example of how teachers not only help children learn, but also strengthen communities in the process,” said DEED Acting Commissioner Heidi Teshner.

    Like Varnell, Harvey demonstrates how respect and curiosity are essential aspects of teaching. Through working to understand and integrate local knowledge into her classroom, she reinforces the idea that this knowledge is important. Those efforts, witnessed by students, colleagues, and the broader community, boost cultural pride and encourage others to be open to growth. 
  • University of Alaska Anchorage graduate Bill Hill, from Naknek, is the 2023 Alaska Superintendent of the Year.

    “Watching my parents, uncles, cousins and other family members in education and seeing the commitment, dedication and sacrifice required to do justice in a profession that has in many cases had a negative historical impact is something that we need more Alaska students to take on, and I hope that someday I can hire some of them,” said Hill to UAA.

    Hill said that being Alaska Superintendent of the Year means representing the efforts of many. “The relationships and connections we’ve made within the borough and across the region are going to have a long-lasting impact on the viability and success of our students.”  

The sentiment of connections, effort, and impact also applies to the UA Alaska College of Education Consortium. Our three institutions share an approach designed to create high-quality teacher education opportunities across Alaska. UA Teach Alaska programs are rooted in place, preparing Alaskan teachers for Alaska’s schools and kids.

Varnell, Harvey, and Hill are inspiring reminders that teaching by example is how learning works. Their efforts to engage young people also empower their communities. Congratulations and thank you.