RSC and NREA are excited to be able to continue sharing the stories of rural teachers from across the United States as part of our I Am A Rural Teacher collaboration, made possible by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Rural communities are often intertwined with powerful histories and unique landscapes. This is certainly true in Atqasuk, Alaska, where Robbin Perkins Askew teaches in the northernmost school district in the United States. Here, indigenous traditions thrive and children walk through blizzards to go to school.
While Robbin began her teaching career in the urban setting of Dallas, she soon realized that she wanted more from herself and the students she served, Your more city settings, your more suburban settings, you're kind of boxed in as a teacher. Rural schools, you got to do the things that teachers did when my mom was teaching and when other people in my family were teaching. You got to be more personal, you got to get to know your students and their families, and you got to actually do the work of, not just the academic work, but helping them to improve their life overall."
Moving from Dallas to Alaska was quite an adjustment for Robbin, particularly when it came to the climate, weather, and terrain, "They always say when you move to Alaska you're going to experience this long, dark winter, but until you experience stepping outside and it being negative 70…that was a huge adjustment;" but she also appreciates the wonder the landscape inspires, "When I see this place, I am just in awe at how physically beautiful it is. There is snow and ice for miles, and it is the quietest, most serene place that you will ever see."
Like many rural places, the school in Atqasuk is the hub of the community, but for this small community that means so much more. The school serves as the place where the community gathers when families experience electricity outages, where community members can take a hot shower or check their email, where the majority of community functions are held, including funerals, and more. The school serves as the community's safe space, and Robbin shares, "If you are a teacher, because you're a part of the school, by default you become part of that safe place.”
Read Robbin's Full Story
Read more about Robbin's transformative teaching experiences in Atqasuk, Alaska.
We appreciate the willingness of teachers like Robbin to share their stories and experiences with us and hope these stories bring some inspiration to your day! If you would like to share 30 minutes of your time for an interview, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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