‘Denali Borough School District Celebrations of Learning’ by DBSD Students, Teachers, and Administrators

This spring in Denali Borough School District, we collectively engaged in supporting our students to share their learning through a specific student-engaged assessment strategy called Celebrations of Learning. Celebrations of Learning invite students to publicly engage and assess their learning experiences through reflection. We saw enhanced student engagement when our students were able to reflect on and take the lead of their work. Taking ownership of these experiences encouraged insight, self-assessment, and complex learning, and was especially nurtured when our students wondered about their learning publicly with others. Making learning public became an authentic purpose that empowered and motivated our students to care about the quality of their work.

Celebrations of Learning is a community event that nurtures classroom-based learning experiences that ensure that students are fully empowered in the process of understanding themselves as learners. Students presented high-quality products and performances that were often modeled after real-world formats and intended for audiences beyond the classroom. The ultimate intent of Celebrations of Learning was to invite students to reflect on and articulate what they have learned, questions they answered, research they conducted, and areas of strength and struggle in order to understand and take ownership of their own growth as learners.

                  Eric Filardi, Principal, Anderson School

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‘Learning Tools and Standards Lead To ‘Ah Ha’ Moments’ by Becky Walker and Pamela Verfaillie

Each year, students in Mrs. Walker’s junior English class research and write a persuasive essay.  This is one of the best known assignments at Valdez High School and is often approached by students with more trepidation than anticipation.

This year, thankfully, we are starting to see a shift in the mindset.  Ok, not the mindset BEFORE they start the assignment, but as the students progress, they come to understand the value of what they are learning.

Mrs. Verfaillie introducing databases.

Continue reading ‘Learning Tools and Standards Lead To ‘Ah Ha’ Moments’ by Becky Walker and Pamela Verfaillie

‘What Works: Tanana Middle Built Upon Its Strengths When The Learning Landscape Changed!’ by Tana Martin

Tanana Middle School in Fairbanks, Alaska has a 40+ year history of excellence. Tanana serves about 350 students in grades 7 & 8. About one third of our students are part of families with a member serving at Fort Wainwright, a US Army post adjacent to the school. 

When COVID hit in March of 2020, school immediately shifted to remote learning. Our captain, Principal Carla Marquand, called on Tanana staff to rise to the challenge.  She knew her crew was capable.  We had to stretch a bit farther outside our comfort zones. We took a deep breath, adjusted, & built upon our strengths.  We didn’t reinvent the helm…we simply changed direction of the ship. Collaboration, Chromebooks, & communication were assets our Tanana crew already possessed.  When everything about “doing school” changed on a dime, Tanana was prepared to succeed. Continue reading ‘What Works: Tanana Middle Built Upon Its Strengths When The Learning Landscape Changed!’ by Tana Martin

‘The Our Alaskan Schools Blog Celebrates Its Second Year’ by Sam Jordan

It has been an unprecedented year in Alaskan education for so many reasons. The Our Alaskan Schools blog has been humbled to continue elevating educators’ voices during a time marked by so much challenge and change.

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‘Engaging Students in a Virtual Environment’ by Principal Robin Jones

As the Principal of Chief Ivan Blunka School in the Southwest Region School District, I want to showcase one unique way that we are engaging students in a virtual environment in New Stuyahok, Alaska. I was born and raised in Alaska, and I have always been very connected to the land and its’ resources.  I actively participate in subsistence activities to harvest fish, game, and edible plants, and my chief goal as a principal is to help my students and staff connect to the traditional way of life in a meaningful way.One opportunity we have had while in the red risk level where students are participating in distance learning is facilitating a way for them to connect through Subsistence Bingo.

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‘The Importance of an Origin Story for our School’s Community’ by Arctic Light Elementary Principal Thad Keener

Arctic Light Elementary School is a K-8 public school in the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. It is unique in that it is the only public school located on the Fort Wainwright Army U.S. Base. The school mascot is the Arctic Fox.

This year we are sharing our school mascot’s origin story. Arty the Arctic Fox is our mascot and, “Do Good Work, Be a Friend, Every Day” is our motto. With our students we have expanded these words and we were ready for this book to extend the learning. Continue reading ‘The Importance of an Origin Story for our School’s Community’ by Arctic Light Elementary Principal Thad Keener

‘End of Year Celebrations in the Denali Borough School District’ by Principal Jeni Mason

Through new territories of learning and teaching, we must remember to celebrate all successes, even the little ones. Each community, parents and district’s staff, and students deserve an applause, gratitude, and appreciation, as well as a great big virtual hug. I’ve often said to colleagues (and I have been reminded by many) that the second semester just flies by. This year, with no exception, second semester flew by. This flight had a much different pattern, nonetheless, the end of the school year was still here in a flash.

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‘The Power of Public Speaking’ by Laura Davies in Wrangell

At the beginning of each school year, I inform fifth-grade students that by the end of the year, they will all write a persuasive speech and say it aloud to their friends and family. Most students are already aware of this ten-year tradition, but many still give me a look of shock and disbelief. During the year, students work on speaking in front of their peers during daily student-run morning meetings and throughout the day when they share their ideas, knowledge, and questions with their peers. Using a microphone they learn to stand up, speak aloud to their peers, and over time develop confidence with this skill.

Students have numerous opportunities throughout the school year, like this Mystery Skype session, to practice public speaking skills and gain confidence in their public speaking abilities.

Continue reading ‘The Power of Public Speaking’ by Laura Davies in Wrangell

‘Celebrating our Seniors in New Stuyahok’ by Assistant Principal Meghan Redmond

Graduation Week is, without a doubt, my absolute favorite week of the entire school year, and being the senior advisor is one of my favorite parts of my job. I look forward to the planning, the stress, the excitement, the traditions, the pictures (so many pictures!), the hugs, the handshakes, the smiles, and the tears all year long.

Chief Ivan Blunka School in New Stuyahok is part of the Southwest Region School District in western Alaska

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‘Inspiring Stories from Alaska’s Schools Emerge Amid the Crisis’ by Seanna O’Sullivan and Sam Jordan at ASDN

In a matter of a few short weeks public schools around the world have been challenged by COVID-19 virus with an unprecedented task: with little or no time for training, resources or directives, assemble a widespread distance education program that reaches every student, in every grade, in every home. 

Alaskan principals from across the state meeting to plan for the COVID-19 response (photo courtesy of New Stuyahok Principal Robin Jones)

Superintendents, educators and support staff around Alaska have responded to this crisis with resolve, creativity, care, and at times, some well needed humor. Our schools have developed meal distribution sites in different locations, assessed needs of students, families and communities across the state and developed systems for delivering instruction, ever mindful of the need to avoid risk of transmitting the virus.  Continue reading ‘Inspiring Stories from Alaska’s Schools Emerge Amid the Crisis’ by Seanna O’Sullivan and Sam Jordan at ASDN