Last month, more than 40 professional educators came from across Alaska to attend a conference in Juneau on the University of Alaska Southeast Auke Lake campus. The conference focused on how educators can engage their students and instill in them a desire to return to school day after day.
UAS leadership professor Marty Laster, with Kuspuk School District Superintendent Brad Allen, spearheaded this grant-funded effort. Federal funding came from the Alaska Department of Education for this professional development opportunity.
At the heart of the program was a new curriculum, “Tools of the Trade,” which uses an interdisciplinary approach to teaching. The curriculum highlights place-based learning, which values the importance of local geography and culture, especially that of indigenous people.
Additionally, teachers and principals in attendance learned how to use digital documentaries and global mapping skills. This very active approach to student learning maximizes student ownership and choice in the learning process.
Teams came from Ambler, Anchorage, Aniak, Buckland, Crooked Creek, Juneau, Kalskag, Ketchikan, Koyuk, Unalakleet and Wasilla. Principals were also present with each team.
It is the planners’ hope to bring participants back in the summer. A nationally distinguished principal, Dan Blanton had this to say about the conference: “In my 35 years in education, this was the best professional development opportunity I ever attended.”