Southwest school district creates fast track program to help associate teachers
It's a program recently launched to help associate teachers become fully certified in the Lower Kuskokwim School District.
The "Two and Done" program, as it's known in the district helps associate teachers within 2 years of earning their bachelor's degree.
The program also puts more teachers fluent in Yugtun into the classroom.
Inside Ayaprun Elitnaurvik, students learn and speak in Yugtun.
Ayaprun "Loddie" Jones began her teaching career in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta in 1972.
Starting as a kindergarten and English teacher at Kilbuck Elementary School in Bethel, Jones now teaches in the Yup'ik immersion charter school Ayaprun Elitnaurvik, which is also named in her honor.
"Now that I'm in the Yup'ik immersion program, I'm doing it in memory of my mom because one of her pet peeves was having to get a translator to have to talk to her own great grandchildren," Jones said.
Jones' desire to teach started when she was going to school.
"Having gone to school in a BIA setting, I kept hearing 'become something so that you can go back home and teach your people,'" Jones said.
Jones said the immersion school isn't accepted by some people.
"They think real education comes from a western school, that frame of mind," Jones said. "They have to stop and think you can also learn in any language regardless of it being Yup'ik, Inupiaq, Athabascan."
Jones' work is something associate teachers like Isabelle Dyment are working toward eventually doing as a certified teacher in the next 2 years.
"I've always wanted to be a teacher since I got out of high school, where you know my dream was to teach kids," Dyment said.
As part of LKSD's "Two and Done" program, Dyment takes classes full-time at UAF's Kuskokwim campus and is on a fast track to fulfilling the dream she put on hold years earlier.
"Things changed after high school, I started having kids and I didn't wanna leave my kids, they were too small I wanted to stay focused with them," Dyment said. "As they got older, they started understanding what homework was all about."
Dyment said now her family supports her being a full-time student.
"Having full support from the family and friends is very, very important," Dyment said. "If I didn't have that, I don't know where I would have been."
Earning an income while studying, Dyment said is helpful.
"I'm getting paid for this program and for me to do that, I have to have and maintain a good passing grade, C and above," Dyment said.
LKSD director of personnel, Joshua Gill said the goal was to help associate teachers earn their certification requirements quickly.
"As part of the associate program, teachers were in an education program over a long period of time and what we wanted to do was increase the speed of it," Gill said.
The program also promotes finding teachers who grew up in the region and likely to stay in the district.
"There is no greater impact on a child than a teacher," Gill said.
Jones said it's important to have teachers from the area to lead by example.
"You have to let young people see that our people can become things, to maybe encourage them to go on and become something so that they can go back and teach or do whatever their careers might have available for them," Jones said.
Jones said she hopes she's seen by younger upcoming teachers as a role model has no plans of retirement any time soon.
"It's my life, I don't know if I've ever heard of the word retirement 'cause it's an English word, I don't know what it means," Jones said.