North to Alaska, Bobcat finds her first teaching job an adventure above the Arctic Circle
For Dakota Redmond, a teacher job fair at Texas State University would end with a very chilly reception in Kobuk, Alaska
Dakota “Koda” Redmond (B.S. ’19) landed her first teaching job a very long way from her home in Texas. She is 60 miles above the Arctic Circle in Kobuk, Alaska (pop. 191).
Redmond is teaching kindergarten, first, and second grade at the Kobuk School, which is part of the Northwest Arctic Borough School District (NWABSD). The school has five certified teachers serving grades K-12.
“I started my job here on Jan. 4, 2020. I graduated (in December) and moved here less than three weeks later. The weather was something I had never experienced before. It was around minus 30 in Kotzebue, the first city I flew into, and then I actually got stuck in Kotzebue for a couple of extra days. I wasn’t able to fly out to my village, Kobuk, because it was too cold there for the planes to fly. It was even colder in Kobuk, around minus 50. Which of course is something this Texas girl has never heard of before.”
Q: How did a city girl from Katy end up teaching school in Alaska?
A: “NWABSD sent some representatives to the Teaching Job Fair that Texas State hosts every semester for its education majors. They offered me an interview and later that day a job. I always knew I wanted to travel somewhere to teach after graduation and it was the perfect opportunity.”
Q: Since you teach multiple grade levels — how have you adapted classroom teaching from what you learned in the College of Education and from student teaching?
A: “I have gotten very good at creating groupings with my students based on their abilities. Just because they are in the same grade does not mean they are on the same level. Having access to multiple levels of the curriculum has helped me differentiate my lessons for all my students, which is something that was marked as highly important by my college professors.
“I learned some great classroom management skills in my last two semesters at Texas State. I got to be in a classroom those semesters and learned it in a more hands-on way. Trust me, classroom management is not something you can just learn from a book. You need practice and lots of it. I learned a lot about setting up small groups and running centers. I gained knowledge of so many good ideas for organizing things in your classroom to help your day flow better. Which I’m still not quite an expert on but I’m getting there.”
Q: What has been the most surprising thing about teaching, and more specifically teaching in Alaska?
A: “Not every day is going to be a good day. I imagined teaching as this wonderful thing where I would be constantly planning fun activities, laughing with my students, and watching them succeed. But that doesn’t happen every day. At the end of the day though, I wouldn’t trade my career for anything.
“I think one of the most surprising things about teaching in Alaska is we can have outdoor recess as long it’s warmer than 10 below zero. Oh, and the time an aide came into my room to tell the kids ‘Take new road home, there’s a wolf sighted on the old road,’ and not a single one of them was phased. One first grader even offered to go get it right then and there.”
Q: What do you like to do in Kobuk when you aren’t teaching?
A: “I love to go out riding and explore the Alaskan tundra out here. I have learned how to drive several types of snow machines and four-wheelers. The first time I drove a snow machine was on top of the frozen Kobuk River and I will admit I was terrified at first but now I love it! I have been able to see all kinds of wildlife up close while out exploring, such as moose, caribou, foxes, spruce hens, and ptarmigan. I’ve had several opportunities to go on a sled dog run, which is probably one of my favorite things I have done here.”
Q: What would your teachers think about this adventure in Alaska?
A: “I know my past teachers would be proud of the hard work I am putting in and the wild adventure I am having. I am friends with several former teachers on Facebook and love it when I get a positive message or comment from them. The teachers I have taken the time to add to Facebook are the ones who have influenced me the most, and supported me in the same way I will be supporting my students.”
Q: What are the biggest differences between Texas and Alaska (besides the size)?
A: “The weather, obviously. Also, the culture where I live. I am in a 100% Alaskan Inupiaq village, so I have learned a lot about their culture and adapted it within my classroom.
“Everything is way more expensive than in Texas, or the lower 48 in general. A jar of peanut butter at my local store could cost me up to $12. A two-pack of Hot Pockets that costs $2 in Texas, costs $6 here.
“Since I live off the road system all my mail is flown in. This means if there is bad weather it could be days or sometimes over a week before we see a plane come in. That means you must plan ahead. When buying decorations and crafts for Halloween this year I purchased most of it mid-September to make sure it got here on time.”
Q: What do you see yourself doing in five years?
A: “Teaching. Hopefully, by then, I will have acquired my master’s as well, not sure in what, but something in the education realm. I don’t know where I’ll be teaching but I am always looking for an adventure to go with it.”