Conference aims to increase cultural, trauma awareness

Experts, educators from all over the world to share ideas

This week, educators from all around Alaska and the world will be in Juneau for a conference to learn more about culturally aware approaches in classrooms.


The conference, called “Our Cultural Landscape,” is sponsored by the Sealaska Heritage Institute and other organizations in town. This is the second conference that the nonprofit has put on, and SHI Education Director Kevin Shipley said this one will be much larger than the one last year.

About 150 people attended last year, Shipley said, and as of Monday there were 220 attendees confirmed. People are coming from as far away as Denmark and New Zealand, according to a list provided by SHI.

Despite the conference’s global reach, Shipley said about half the attendees are from Juneau and Southeast. Juneau School District principals and educators will be involved, and members of the Board of Education have been invited as well. Topics at the conference will range from the rejuvenation of Alaska Native languages to addressing broader challenges educators face, such as relating to children dealing with trauma.

“This will give something to teachers and administrators,” Shipley said. “It will give them opportunities to add to their repertoire of being able to deal with students successfully and ultimately help those students achieve and that’s what our goal in education is. It’s just an availability to let teachers have the most recent available information and make it available to them.”

[Program increases awareness of effects of childhood trauma]

Registration is closed, and Shipley said it’s not open to the public. The majority of programming will take place at Juneau-Douglas High School from Wednesday to Friday. It should make a difference in Juneau and Southeast, he said, with the expertise of diverse visitors and keynote speakers.

Those keynote speakers include: Dr. Christopher Blodgett, a clinical psychologist and Washington State faculty member specializing in trauma-informed education; Zaretta Hammond, a national education consultant and author of a book about engaging with culturally and linguistically diverse students; Dr. Randall B. Lindsey, a professor emeritus of educational leadership at California State University-Los Angeles; and Rev. Michael Oleksa, a leader in the development of cross-cultural education in Alaska.

The program is part of SHI’s “Thru the Cultural Lens” program, which sponsors cultural education and orientation for educators in the JSD. Shipley said this conference is a group effort, as SERRC, the Alaska Superintendents Association (ASA), the Alaska Department of Education, SHI’s Baby Raven Reads program and the University of Alaska Southeast all worked with SHI to make it possible.

“The big thing people may want to know, it’s bringing together resources from people in Southeast to bring quality professional development to Southeast,” Shipley said. “That’s the goal and I would say it’s a great thing. You don’t always have all these organizations come together and focus and do one thing, but we’ve done it and I think it’s going to be a great conference.”

• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.


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