Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Bering Strait School District

I promised a little information about BSSD, so here it is!  I could go on for hours, but this is a fair summary.  

The  Bering Strait School District is a progressive standards-based district comprised of fifteen K-12 schools in the Norton Sound/Bering Strait region of Northwest Alaska.  It is part of the Nome Census Area.  The district encompasses a land area approximately the size of Minnesota and North Dakota combined, although it is considered a small district by population (roughly 1700 students total).

The district population of students is over 99% Alaskan Native Inupiat, Yu'pik, and Siberian Yu'pik cultures.  The communities range in size from a population of 150 to nearly 900 people, while the student population in the schools ranges from 40 to 225 students.  Of the 1700 students, over 1000 are ELL students.

The area is extremely remote.  The communities are among the most traditional Native Alaskan Eskimo villages in the world.  Daily subsistence activities such as hunting (seal, whale, fish, etc) and gathering berries are the mainstay of village life.  Few cash economy jobs exist; the school is often the largest village employer.  Supplies, mail, and people can only reach the area by bush plane.  A few of the district villages are connected to each other through a snowmachine/dog sled route, and six of the villages are checkpoints for the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.  Temperatures range from 60 degrees F in the summer to a possible -45 degrees F in the winter.  BSSD does not own a school bus for obvious reason, but it does own several snowmachines (or snowmobiles, as they are called in the L48) in each village as well as a district bush plane for field trip and teacher inservice travel.  Visitors to five of the district's schools can see Russia with the naked eye from North America.

While the location is isolated and remote, the schools are state of the art.  Alaska is rich in oil, and the oil money has even trickled down to education!  The district is an all Macintosh organization and is technology-driven.  They have composed an open-content initiative through Wikipedia, and they even create a large Iditarod curriculum project every year for teachers in the Lower 48.  Many teachers and students write blogs as class projects.

I hope that gives you a better picture of my district and future home!  I will post pictures and videos of the actual places and people once I settle into my new community.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I'm Hired!

Yes, one and all, that's right:  I have signed a letter of intent with the Bering Strait School District for the 2009-2010 school year!  

The BSSD Personnel Director called me tonight and said that he had a good conversation with my references, and had only one more question for me. Here's how the conversation went after that:

My thoughts:  what else could they possibly ask that could make a difference in this phase of the process? 

His question:  "Are you ready to move to Alaska?"  

For a brief moment I was feeling a little overwhelmed and panicky, and so my response was the first thing that came to my mind.  

My response:  "That depends."

His question:  *surprised pause*  "On what?"  

My response:  "Will I have a job when I get there?"  *aka Are you offering me the job?*

Perhaps not the most eloquent thing to say when accepting a job, but he laughed and said YES.  BSSD sent me a PDF letter of intent within minutes, I have signed it, and tomorrow it is going to the post office.  

An official contract will follow in March once the school district knows which specific positions are open, and I will negotiate the village and 'grade' level assignment at that time.  However, the letter of intent is binding, so I have a job with BSSD no matter what.

This has been a few months in the making, and I am excited to begin my career with such an amazing district.  Though I have a small fluttering in my stomach which I suspect is apprehension, I look forward to learning more about my Inupiat/Yu'pik students.  I feel like the luckiest student teacher alive:  not only do I already have a binding commitment from an incredible district, I will get to travel and live in a land of superlatives as a first teacher!

It has been a long day, and I am going to sleep pronto.  I will post some information about the district tomorrow for those that are interested.  


Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Interview

The interview has come and gone, and I believe it went very well.  I was prepared for all of the questions that were asked.  As far as interview questions go, they were fairly standard and easily answered after so many OC methods courses.  This might sound strange, but I actually enjoyed the interview.  It was like a fun conversation.  Though now that I think about it, who doesn't like to talk about themselves and their beliefs for an hour?

Right now, they are checking up on me and calling my references.  I should know a whole lot more next week.  With any luck at all, I will receive a letter of intent very soon!

Until I hear anything more, I will leave off with a quotation from the book I am currently reading (Walden):

"I learned this, at least, by my experiment:  that if one advances confidently in the directions of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.  He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary . . .   In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness.  If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be.  Now put the foundations under them."      -Henry David Thoreau