Department of Education and Early Development appoints new commissioner

FastCast digital headlines for Monday, Feb. 27, 2023.
Published: Feb. 27, 2023 at 5:54 PM AKST
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - A new commissioner has been appointed to head the Department of Education and Early Development.

According to a press release from Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s office, current Innovation and Education Excellence Director Susan McKenzie was selected by the State Board of Education and Early Development and was subsequently approved by Dunleavy.

“Ms. McKenzie has demonstrated a strong commitment to improving education and a vision for Alaska’s education system that aligns with the State Board’s strategic priorities and direction, especially in reading improvement. I look forward to working with her and Alaska’s entire education community to improve outcomes for all students,” Dunleavy said in the release.

McKenzie replaces Heidi Teshner, who had been serving as the department’s acting commissioner since last July. Teshner will return to her role as deputy commissioner. Teshner was elevated to the acting commissioner after Michael Johnson resigned last summer. McKenzie’s first day as commissioner will be April 1, according to the release.

“As an educator for 40 years, my life’s work has been to improve education for students, optimizing their achievement, leading to greater future choices. I’ve witnessed the pattern of failure to support students with evidence-based practices and have been desperately determined to affect change,” McKenzie said.

According to a copy of McKenzie’s resume posted to the state website, she has taught in the North Slope Borough School District, the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, and served as a principal in the Copper River School District in Glennallen. McKenzie lists her teaching experience from 1983 to 2010.

“Our children deserve our best. Movement into higher leadership roles has been a blessing, and I’ve realized there is great alignment in my skill set and the service as Commissioner,” McKenzie said in the release. “I bring gained educational wisdom, Alaska experience and relationships, strong leadership, and knowledge of Alaska Department of Education and Early Development to use for such a time as this. I am a change agent for ineffective systems and practices. As a servant leader, I lead by example and will be involved with all groups, making changes needed to provide an excellent education for every student every day.”

McKenzie earned her masters degree from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in language and literacy with a reading endorsement, completed administrator licensing at Portland State University in 2009 and renewed that licensing at Concordia University Chicago in 2015.