I speak Yugtun, the native language of our region, and though most of the students speak English, I teach them about the language and how we must keep it alive.
There are about 300 to 400 people living here. We look out for each other. I’ll see students or colleagues from school out ice fishing. Hunting and fishing is a way of life, and it’s how many people help feed their families.
If you want to understand the real experience, people should visit rural Alaskan villages to see what we go through year-round.
The students can relate to me because they know I’m there for them and we have lived the same experience. My work with the union shows them how I’m working for them. For example, we’re working hard to save our school from being swallowed by the river.
Our school sits on the banks of the Kuskokwim River. The eroding riverbank in Napakiak will likely reach the school's foundation within one year. About 12 feet of the riverbank in front of the school fell into the water in June. The Napakiak school sits 78 feet from the water, about the same amount that erodes each year, according to recent studies.
Our union, NEA-Alaska, is trying to help get a new school built away from the river.
Together with NEA-Alaska, I fight for rural communities. Students in the small villages don’t get what the kids in the city have. We don’t have a nurse, so we have to send them to the health clinic. If it’s more serious, it’s a five-minute plane ride to the hospital. Most people don’t have cars, so to get anywhere they use an ATV or pay for rides.
We need better nutrition for our kids up here. We get very few fresh vegetables and fruit. We need to speak up and the union helps us to do that. With our union, we have a stronger voice to advocate for the students of rural communities, to offer them a better future.
I’m a proud union member because it provides us with better training, better teachers, and better service for students.