Email to UA President and Regents — Keep UAS School of Education Programs

A former classmate in my UAS MAT program posted in our Facebook group that she heard the education programs at UAS are potentially going to be cut or moved to UAF (the University of Alaska Fairbanks). She asked that we email the UA Board of Regents and President to protest, and I decided I would—right away, in fact. For the benefit of anyone who might stumble across it, here is the text of my email:

Dear President Johnsen and Regents,

I am writing because I recently heard that the education programs at UAS are being considered for cuts or possible relocation to UAF. I would strongly urge you to reconsider this idea.

I am a 2014 graduate of the UAS MAT program. I grew up in Ketchikan, and after earning a bachelor's degree at Georgetown University I knew that I wanted to become a teacher in Southeast Alaska. UAS offered the absolute best opportunity for me to learn the craft of teaching while working for a full year as a student teacher in my own community and earning a master's degree.

When I first joined the UAS program, I expected that it would be filled with other students from Southeast. I was surprised to learn that we were the minority in our cohort, and the program had students from every region of Alaska—the Aleutians, the West, the Arctic, the Interior, and Southcentral—as well as students from elsewhere in the US. All these students valued what the UAS MAT program offered, and they were willing to come to Juneau for six weeks of summer classes (in addition to completing a year of student teaching and distance learning) in order to pursue it. In fact, I remember several students who discussed why they chose UAS over UAA and UAF, and at least one student had attended a UAA program for a time before switching.

I trust that you will have all of the most reliable facts and figures available to you when you examine these programs. However, according to information a fellow alumnus shared with me, the UAS School of Education has graduated significantly more students over the past few years than UAF, has produced far more graduates per faculty member than either UAF or UAA, and has graduated many more Alaska Native educators over the past several years than either UAF or UAA. If there is to be any merging of education programs across the state considered, it seems to me that the most effective choice may be to bring those programs under the purview of UAS. What UAS does for Alaska educators is working, and it's working for educators from every region of Alaska.

Perhaps most importantly, I hope you do not consider making any cuts or changes to University of Alaska education programs that will hamper or reduce our state's ability to produce its own teachers. Hopefully you are all already well aware of Alaska's massive deficit of home-grown teachers. There may be more recent information available, but this 2013 study found that roughly 64% of teacher hires in Alaska were teachers from out of state, and 72% of teacher hires in rural Alaska were from out of state. Meanwhile, the same study found that Alaska-prepared teachers had substantially lower turnover rates in every type of Alaska school district than teachers prepared elsewhere. I believe any cuts to UAS education programs would necessarily represent a setback to the continued positive impact of Alaska-prepared teachers on our school system.

I am fortunate enough to teach at Ketchikan Indian Community's Tribal Scholars Program (an alternative high school program for Native students) with a Tlingit co-teacher who was also raised in Ketchikan. I also work at Ketchikan High School, which has a large number of staff who were Alaska-raised or even alumni of the school. It comforts me greatly to know that students in Ketchikan can depend on so many educators who know and love this community deeply. However, I often think about how depressingly few Native educators we have, even in Ketchikan, and how so many less fortunate students across rural Alaska witness a revolving door phenomenon of out-of-state teachers passing through their schools, rather than having teachers who intimately understand their communities and cultures.

Lastly, my younger brother recently earned a bachelor's degree in Washington state, and—contrary to my family's expectations—he is considering becoming a teacher. I have looked over some of the education programs in Washington he is examining, and I still have not found anything that compares to the accessibility and quality of the UAS MAT program. If he returns home to Alaska to begin a career in education, I sincerely hope that the vibrant, successful programs at UAS will still be available.

Thank you very much for your time and all the work that you do.

Peter Stanton, secondary social studies and mathematics teacher
Ketchikan Indian Community Tribal Scholars Program
Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District