After serving Sitka and Juneau for 20 years in local community schools programs, Joyce Kitka has a national endorsement confirming what some of her colleagues knew all along.
"It wasn't a surprise at all to me," said Kathy Buss, who serves on the community education advisory council. "They should recognize her as one of the leaders, not just of after-school programs here in Juneau, but in Alaska and across the United States."
The National Community Education Association awarded Kitka a designation of fellow at the organization's annual conference in New Orleans early this month. Kitka has served for 10 years as the director of the Community Schools program of the Juneau School District.
The title should assure Juneau residents of Kitka's qualifications for her position, said Don Kramlinger, chairman of the National Community Education Association committee that gave Kitka the award.
"What it says at the national level is that Joyce Kitka can go anywhere in the United States and administer a comprehensive community education program that meets the needs of a community," Kramlinger said.
Born and raised in Missouri, Kitka came to Alaska after graduating from college with a major in recreation. She moved to Sitka in 1980 to complete a three-month internship, but stayed for 10 years after being hired as community education director there.
She moved to Juneau to direct the RALLY program, an after-school program for elementary school kids. After three years in that position, she became community schools director.
Community Schools organizes the use of school facilities in Juneau after the kids and teachers leave the building. Kitka's job includes organizing open gyms at the schools, setting up and finding teachers for classes, and making sure everybody has access to the facilities, she said.
Kitka's job requires a fair amount of diplomacy, said Jim Douglas, who has served on the community education advisory council for 20 years.
"She's been a very, very effective lobbyist," Douglas said. "Every time it's come up to cut community education funds, Joyce is up there beating on legislators, in her tactful manner. I'm sure she'd like to strangle them but she doesn't. She's up there educating."
Applying for the award involved creating a portfolio, including college transcripts, letters of recommendation and newspaper articles featuring community schools projects.
Kitka worked on her portfolio for nearly a year, she said, then flew to New Orleans to complete a round of interviews with NCEA members. Five community educators nationwide were awarded the distinction this year.
"This is not a weekend project," said Kramlinger. "This is something you have to put some time into."