UAA collaboration receives $4.39M toward teacher training and retention in Bristol Bay

by Matt Jardin  |   

Dennis Andrew Sr. teaches students
Dennis Andrew Sr. teaches students how to read a map while telling harrowing survival stories. (Photo courtesy of Ben Griese)

In early September 2022, the Bristol Bay Teaching and Learning Collaborative (BBTLC) —  which comprises the UAA School of Education (SOE), Bristol Bay Native Corporation Education Foundation (BBNCEF), Alaska Humanities Forum, Bristol Bay Region Career and Technical Education, Bristol Bay Native Corporation and Bristol Bay’s four school districts — was awarded a $4.39 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), just in time for the start of a new academic year.

The grant is one of 28 new three-year grants totaling $35.3 million from DOE’s Alaska Native Education (ANE) program. According to the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, ANE’s purpose is to meet the unique educational needs of Alaska Natives by funding curricula, family literacy services, dropout prevention programs and professional development for educators.

BBTLC will focus on three areas: facilitating teacher development and retention from the region, enhancing positive engagement between the communities and schools, and helping teachers from outside the region better understand local context through culturally responsive practices.

“The thing I love about this grant is that it addresses both current reality while looking ahead to what really matters in the long term,” said Timothy Jester, Ed.D., UAA professor of teaching and learning and the SOE principal investigator on the project. “It supports the current teachers, many of whom are from outside the region, while building the local teacher pipeline and helping us understand what it is that hinders movement into teaching as a career path.”

Work on the collaborative is set to begin on Oct. 1. SOE’s involvement, led by Jester, will utilize a portion of the grant to focus on the third pillar of helping current teachers better understand the local cultures in the region and teach in culturally responsive ways. To achieve this, over the course of three years, SOE will make a graduate course on culturally responsive education available to 48 new and existing teachers as an extension to their participation in grant-funded culture camps.

Much of the groundwork for the graduate course was laid two years ago during SOE’s initial partnership with Bristol Bay’s school districts to increase teacher retention and develop their culturally responsive skills. 

Before being approached by BBNCEF to join the collaborative, in 2020 SOE launched a pilot project to offer the M.Ed. in teaching and learning, emphasizing culturally responsive teaching and experiential learning.

“The timing is exciting because it propels work we had already begun. The work we do is so connected to these communities and partnering with these established entities takes our work to another level,” said Jester. “I came to Alaska to teach in an Alaska Native village 32 years ago, and I know this type of grant will be very helpful to new teachers in the state and in these communities.”

Creative Commons License "UAA collaboration receives $4.39M toward teacher training and retention in Bristol Bay" is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.