AGSD Monthly Newsletter Dec. 2017

LeAnn Young-Grants * Tracie Weisz-Curriculum & Instruction

Alaska Gateway School District wishes all staff, students and parents a Happy Holiday Season. Schools will be closed Monday, December 25th-Friday, January 5th.

AGSD Phlight Club

Thursday, Dec. 14th, 10am to Saturday, Dec. 16th, 2pm

Walter Northway School

AGSD will host its first ever Phlight Club at Northway School next week. Phlight Club is a lock in style leadership program where students learn what they need to succeed in school and life. The event brings together youth and adults to learn and work alongside each other to solve physical/team-building challenges, discuss the seven PHactors that contribute to child/youth development ecology, and complete a set of surveys that help assess that developmental ecology. Most importantly, it is a time and chance to life each other up, building upon and celebrating each other’s strengths and unique smarts. The AGSD Phlight Club Project targets 6th-12th grade students in seven communities served by Alaska Gateway School District. AGSD is also looking for adults in all of our villages and schools who are interested in chaperoning this event.

A-CHILL Happenings!

Approximately 80 students in Alaska Gateway School District are participating in ACHILL courses in the area of veterinary science and Alaska Culture & dog mushing. These courses include lab visits to local dog kennels. We are hiring local culture experts in all ACHILL sites to share stories and talents with students. We have hired a certified teacher through the ACHILL grant to work with students in the Pathway program. This individual will incorporate Alaska Culture and Dog Mushing activities as well as employability skills and work study opportunities into the classroom.

School Improvement Grant-submitted to the State of Alaska

The 1003a School Improvement Grant for Tetlin and Tanacross schools was submitted to the Department of Education this week. This grant, if received, will help support classroom aides working with students in small groups or one-on-one on reading instruction. This grant will also provide professional development for staff by providing workshops on topics such as; blended learning, professional excellence, team effectiveness, employee engagement, customer service and communication. AGSD will host an introductory workshop put on by Where Are Your Keys (WAYK) which is an approach to language revitalization designed to empower students of all ages to learn and teach their languages with maximum efficiency.

Coffee and Cookies with the Counselor

This is an opportunity for parents and members of the community to come enjoy coffee and a snack with the counselor on a routine basis. There will be a theme every meeting but this is meant to be informal and the counselor will be happy to discuss any counseling topics with you, individually or as a group.

  • Dec. 6th-Educational and Vocational planning
  • Dec. 13th- College and Career
  • Dec. 20th- Job Readiness

In addition to coffee and cookies every week you attend your name will be entered into a drawing to take place at the end of the school year for a $200.00 gas card!

See you in the Home Ec room at Tok School from 7:30AM-8:30AM on the above dates.

Pathways for Dropout Prevention

The “Pathways” project is a district-wide alternative program concept within Alaska Gateway School District designed for our At-Risk high school students who are significantly behind in their progress toward graduation, or who are in danger of dropping out due to significant risk factors.

The Pathways Project aims to address this need by meeting our students where they are in their high school progress, and designing and guiding them along an intentional “pathway” that leads to a high school diploma and future success. An Individual Learning Pathway (ILP) will create a combination of academic coursework as well as work-study and internships with a focus on the student’s social-emotional needs, tailored to the individual student’s needs, talents and interests.

Students who meet the “Pathways” criteria and are accepted into the program will be able to work with our staff to create a flexible schedule designed to meet their challenging life demands. Transportation, activity fees and day-care will be arranged for those students who have these factors impeding their ability to succeed. Pathways is an individual academic program based around specific student needs.

We are very pleased with the success we are already seeing with the program. Two aides were recently hired to work in the Pathways program and a certified teacher will begin soon.

Looking to the Future - Online and Virtual Learning

As more districts around the state have looked to video teleconferencing (VTC) and online curriculum to meet student needs and offer a bigger variety of courses, we too have been exploring these ideas. VTC and online learning appeal to us for many reasons. With the Project RAVE and A-CHILL grants, we have already introduced many new courses for our students, and will continue to add more. We also have several other districts as partners in these grants. We need to develop our own new quality courses and have the ability to offer them to students across our own district, as well as students in our partner districts. So, if we’re going to take this leap into distance education we want to do it right. We do NOT want to park kids in front of a computer all day and let it do the teaching. Nor do we want to park a video camera in front of a teacher, broadcast their lecture to other schools and assume that is teaching. VTC and online courseware definitely have their place, but if we’re going to do it, we want to do it right and we want to do it well! To that end, I’m developing a plan for our new RAVE teachers to receive cutting edge training through Quality Matters, an organization that provides excellent training for teachers in the best of online course design. I’ve also been negotiating an opportunity for our teachers (new RAVE teachers and any other AGSD teachers who are interested) to join a consortium of districts around the state who are developing quality best practices around VTC instruction. Districts like Kodiak (KIBSD), Copper River, Lower Kuskokwim (LKSD) and Fairbanks (FNSBSD) have really broken through with excellent VTC programs that are getting results. I’d like our teachers to learn from and with them.

Making Our Own Path(way)

As we move forward with our Pathways program, one of the things we knew right away we wanted to do was to develop our own curriculum for the program. Currently, we use a curriculum that Yukon Koyukuk School District (YKSD) uses for a similar program in their own district. Although it is good curriculum, and meets student needs, we have no way to modify or customize it, and it costs us money as we have to purchase every individual course from them, no matter how many students take that same course. To that end, we are now hosting our own Learning Management System (LMS) called Canvas. For anyone who has ever taken an online course from the university, you might be familiar with their somewhat similar system called Blackboard. Canvas will allow us to build our own Pathways curriculum in a way that still meets student needs, and meets our own standards and graduation requirements. It will allow the Pathways teacher to customize the course to add in special units, lessons, or resources to support students and integrate their coursework with personal interests, job and career interests, and other projects they may be working on in other courses. Aside from our collection of Pathways courses (right now we are planning for 20), Canvas will also allow us to build unlimited online content for students. It will be available to any teacher wishing to do this for their courses, and we will provide the training.

Ready to Blend

Our Blended Learning grant, written to support our Blended Learning initiative, provided for two of our teachers, and two teachers from our partner district, Copper River, to attend a train-the-trainer workshop in Austin, Texas for Ready to Blend. During this two-day intensive workshop, AGSD teachers Craig Roach and Janine Holmes received training in how to train and support teachers in various models of Blended Learning, such as station rotation, the flex model, and a flipped model. Mr. Roach and Ms. Holmes have already been implementing blended instructional models in their own classrooms for quite some time, and becoming facilitators who can support their fellow teachers seemed a natural next step. Both teachers had a lot of positive things to say about their training, reporting that it was excellent, and helped them to generate a lot of ideas about how they can help fellow staff begin to implement blended learning successfully to help our students.

Welcome Jane Teague!

We are fortunate to have Jane Teague join our staff as part of our Project RAVE grant as our Classroom Technology Specialist. During the past couple of years, the district has been moving more toward the use of digital curriculum for our core programs as well as for supplemental learning tools. These programs help teachers to target student needs more specifically, and can provide engaging ways for students to interact with content. Of course our teachers need training and ongoing support to make the most of these new resources with their students. Jane will be providing that support for our teachers on a consistent basis, as well as helping our schools to adopt innovative new learning opportunities for students such as STEM projects and makerspaces. Jane comes to us with a strong background in education and experience in providing professional development trainings, as well as a lot of enthusiasm for the possibilities of technology in schools. We look forward to our teachers and students benefiting from her efforts!

Jane's Bio: Jane Teague, a long time resident of the community of Tok, has spent many years serving families with young children both in Tok and the surrounding villages of

Tanacross, Tetlin and Mentasta. In recent years she joined the Tok School

Community both as a parent and a substitute teacher. She brings her passion for

excellence in innovative education, along with her respect and knowledge base of

traditional culture to the new position created at the district. Jane is dedicated to

supporting both teachers and students to excel, using many different classroom

tools to accelerate learning and build skills for career paths suitable for the

generations of Alaskans to graduate in the coming years. When not working with

students and their teachers she can be found teaching swimming at the local

community pool in the summer or mushing in the winter months.

Welcome Conni Bishop!

Conni Bishop joins our staff as part of our Project RAVE grant as our Media Specialist. Conni already has lots of experience with our district as an instructional classroom aide and as the Tok School Librarian. She brings a lot of professional office experience to a position that is a whole new iteration of our former District Resource Center. With our new Project RAVE and A-CHILL grants, we are already experiencing an explosion in the amount of new resources that will be available to schools in our own district, as well as in our grant partner districts of Yukon Koyukuk, Copper River, and Tanana City Schools. What was formerly an area dedicated mainly to checking in and out textbooks and science kits to teachers in our own district now will become a center containing all kinds of new learning kits and materials to support teachers in the areas of cultural studies, veterinary sciences, health and medicine, arctic agriculture, STEM, and so much more! Conni is tasked with bringing order, sanity, and clarity to that system so that teachers can easily find exactly what they need to meet their needs in these new and exciting programs that these grants offer. We know she is exactly the person to accomplish it!

Conni's Bio: Born in International Falls MN, raised in Sarasota FL, Conni has spent the past 9 years in Alaska. She has many years experience working in the office as an executive assistant. Since living in Tok Community she has volunteered at the Tok Community Library and worked at Tok School as a special education aide and Librarian. Conni brings her desire to work productively to the position of Media Specialist/Secretary to support teachers and her supervisors in their quest for exceptional educational outcomes. Her hobbies include sewing, quilting, baking and reading. She also enjoys Alaska outdoors camping, hiking, 4-wheeling and fishing in the summer months.

Where Are Your Keys: Language, culture and our students

Since August if 2017, we have been working with an organization called Where Are Your Keys (WAYK). WAYK is actually a system for language learning. It is a comprehensive method for revitalizing endangered languages and skills. The series of language learning techniques that WAYK employ invite any language learner, any language teacher, and anyone who wants to “play” to contribute to the learning.

Evan Gardner, the designer of the WAYK system, has worked with many groups around Alaska, helping them to implement the WAYK system as a means of sustainable language learning in communities. WAYK has conducted workshops and language intensives with Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association, Atka Village, Afognak Native Corporation in Kodiak, the Alaska Native Heritage Center (their Yu’pik and Inupiaq teaching teams), as well as some workshops in Northway and Tok several years ago.

AGSD is now working with WAYK to develop a more comprehensive plan to bring language learning workshops to Tok and Tanacross that are for everyone, students and community members, in our AGSD communities. The focus of the workshops will be on Upper Tanana and Tanacross languages, and the bigger picture of building sustainability within our communities around language learning and culture.

Evan stresses that he and his team are NOT language teachers. They will not be teaching our local languages, nor will AGSD teachers be charged with teaching these languages. WAYK is a method, and Evan’s team will be teaching us, and anyone else who wants to learn, their method.

A crucial component of the WAYK system is the reliance on local native speakers to participate in the method. Without them, there is no one to learn from. The the genius of the system is that local native speakers need not be actual teachers in the sense that they do not need to “deliver” lessons - they only need to be willing to join in and speak with others.

We are tentatively planning the WAYK workshops for Tok and Tanacross for the first part of April 2018. Look for more information as planning moves forward. We will be reaching out to our communities for input and planning around this. Anyone wishing to jump in and get involved now is invited to please contact Tracie Weisz at AGSD, at email:, or by phone at 907-883-5151 ext. 113.