Teaching In Bush Alaska: Life In A Remote Alaskan Village
So you are thinking about teaching in bush Alaska? It is an amazing experience living in a remote village with Native Alaskans. We used teaching in remote Alaska as the first step in becoming location independent.
Whether you are thinking about becoming location independent, or are just considering teaching in bush Alaska, here is everything we learned from our five years there.
In this post, we’re covering what it’s like to teach in remote Alaska. At the end of the post, we’ll tell you about a couple of things that will really require an adjustment if you are going to be successful in such a remote place.
Teaching In Bush Alaska: Life In A Remote Alaskan Village
There are some common questions that everyone has (and I had too), and some questions that you will need to ask yourself before deciding if teaching in bush Alaska is right for you. We’ve tried to cover them all, but if we’ve missed something, feel free to ask us via email.
Why Do You Want To Teach In Bush Alaska?
One of the things we heard a lot when we first got there was that everyone moving to bush Alaska was either running away from something or running toward something. You generally don’t pack up your entire life and move to the middle of nowhere for no reason.
What are your reasons? It’s good to really understand that before you go, because there will be a lot of challenges. In one village there was no internet in teacher housing, so anything you wanted to do had to be done at school.
That can be challenging for people who don’t want to spend all their free time at the school. Sometimes schools block certain websites until well after the school day, so you might have to stay pretty late if you want to download from Netflix or Prime.
Do You Want To Teach In Bush Alaska For The Money?
It’s perfectly fine if you do. I know some young teachers whose goal is/was to do five years and then leave. After five years you are fully vested in the retirement plan. You let that ride from your twenties until you are ready to retire and you’ll have it made.
If you don’t plan on traveling home for both Christmas break and summer break, you can save a lot of money. The cost can add up quickly when you are spending thousands on flying back and forth, taking a big chunk out of your savings.
The money is definitely good, and if you are willing to live frugally, you should be able to save a lot of money.
Are You A New Teacher Trying To Build Your Resume?
Teaching in Alaska is a great way to get your first job and build your resume. How many schools require experience in order for you to get hired? A lot. Getting that first teaching job can be really difficult, even if you’re in a shortage area like special education or math.
Do You Just Need Life To Slow Down?
I know a lot of teachers who just wanted a slower pace of life. They needed a break from the constant onslaught of advertising and rushing everywhere and noise. If that is you, you’ll find exactly what you need teaching in a remote Alaskan village.
Unless you are in a hub, you won’t have television. Most teachers don’t bother with internet at home because it’s so expensive and unreliable. Do you want to pay $400/month for 100 gigabites? That’s about the going rate for internet.
The plus side? You won’t end up spending all your time scrolling through Facebook or IG or Twitter or whatever your social media addiction is. Instead, you’ll read, spend time outside, visit with friends. When you get back to the Lower 48 you’ll realize how addicted we all are to our phones.
Are You Just Looking For Adventure?
If you aren’t worried about saving money, you’ll be able to really find adventure here. Are you a hunter or fisher? There are so many trips you can take to even more remote places than your village.
There are, of course, so many places in Alaska to visit that you could stay for five years and not see every place you want to see.
Some teachers I know went to locals’ fish camps with them to experience what it was like to participate in the traditional way of life.
Want to snowmobile up a frozen river to the next village because they have a ‘real’ store. Totally common.
Want to fly over the tundra in a bush plane? It’s the only way you’re getting to your village.
How many people get to see an Eskimo Dance? Yes, in several villages that’s what they call them.
It’s Alaska. You will find more adventures than you can imagine. You’ll also meet people that you would only otherwise see on television. We ran into a man at a store along the river who lived 10 miles up the river in a remote cabin that he had built himself. He’s lived there for twenty years! Unbelievable.
How Much Money Do Teachers Make In Alaska?
Well, they make a lot. Like anywhere else, it depends on the number of years of experience you have as well as your degree level. Most school districts restrict the number of years of experience you are allowed to bring in to a pretty low number, and that depends on your degree level.
All of the school districts have their contracts/negotiated agreements online so you can narrow down where you want to teach.
With a doctorate, I was able to bring in seven years of experience. When looking for a job make sure you find that in your contract. It would be pretty disappointing to get all excited for a job after looking at the pay scale just to find out you can only bring in three years.
Fringe Benefits Of Teaching In Bush Alaska
You will have access to pretty reasonable health insurance as a teacher in Alaska. In one district, it was actually free, plus you could have a medical savings account for pre-tax money that stayed with you when you left. You didn’t have to spend it in the same fiscal year.
The vision insurance was great no matter where I worked.
Dental is offered as well, and was pretty typical except for in one district. The dental was free, and it covered $3000 per person per year! That is ridiculously generous. If you need any major work, like crowns, that’s the place to teach!
The retirement is great because you make so much money anyway. A certain percent will come out of every check for retirement. After your second year, you will be 25% vested, the third you will be 50% vested, the fourth you’ll be 75% vested, and after five years you are fully vested.
Fully vested means you can take all of the money. The school district contributes to your retirement as well, so the money adds up quickly. Between your money, the school district’s money, and any money from the retirement investment account, it adds up quickly.
Most school districts will help cover the cost of your moving to the village. They will also contribute to the cost of transporting your personal items. Some will cover the cost of your partner as well. It’s a pretty sweet deal.
Some of the orientation weeks are held in hotels in Anchorage or one of the hubs. The school district will cover the cost of your stay and provide breakfast and lunch. These are usually buffet style, so you are free to take extras to cover dinner!
During orientation, they will take you shopping so you can mail some food to the village or pack it to send it on a plane. They’ll also take you to the cell phone store, bank, or anywhere else you will need to go before heading out to the village.
How Hard Is It To Get A Teaching Job In Bush Alaska?
I don’t want to make it sound like they will take anyone, but it’s pretty easy to get a teaching job in remote Alaska. The turnover in bush Alaska for teachers is really, really high. School districts are always looking for teachers.
You can find jobs on the Alaska teacher placement website. Once you have your account on on there, you will start getting phone calls and emails from school districts who want to recruit you. You can also apply for the jobs you are most interested in.
Also, teachers in remote Alaska tend to switch school districts on a somewhat regular basis. I worked in three different districts and most of the people I worked with had worked in other districts as well.
Even if you don’t get your first choice location, it will be easy enough to transfer to a different district later on. Some teachers even switch in the middle of the school year as openings occur. Of course, it’s good practice to at least work your full year.
So, if you are a new teacher, remote Alaska is a pretty good opportunity and it’s not too difficult for you to get a job.
What About My Partner/Friend/Spouse/Child?
If you are in a remote Village it can be pretty boring for your partner, spouse, or friend who you move there with you if you are teaching all day. With no television and limited, if any internet, there’s not too much to do all day if they don’t have a job.
Finding a job can be pretty challenging because most of the jobs are at the school. If you are living in a hub there’s a chance that they could get a job at a store or a restaurant, but even that is a little more difficult unless you’ve lived there for a while.
However, there are always jobs available for paraprofessionals in the schools. J is not a teacher, but he worked as a paraprofessional in two of the districts and as a substitute teacher in the other district.
If your partner, spouse, or friend has a hobby that they can do at home then they should be all set. For me, if I wasn’t a teacher, I would be very, very happy to be able to stay home and read books, do yoga, and cook.
It’s a big consideration for the person moving there with you, though.
Being A Single Parent In Remote Alaska
One of the things that really impressed me about living in these remote villages is that it was a great place for single parents. Maybe not the hub so much (though that was perfectly doable), but the remote villages are really great if you are a single parent.
You live right next to the school. It’s a really small place so everybody knows you. Your child can get back and forth to school independently. They can use the playground at the school independently.
A big plus is that you don’t have to worry about strangers or that sort of thing. There are no strangers!
Of course, there are natural hazards, like water or staying out in the cold too long and that sort of thing. The kids are pretty good about being very careful, though. The native students grow up there and have a really healthy respect for nature and its dangers.
Overall, it’s a pretty great place for a single parent to raise a child.
Getting To The Village
First, you will usually fly into Anchorage International Airport. Many of the district orientations are held here, and it’s a pretty central location for all the districts and the flights out to the hubs.
From Anchorage, you will fly in a regular plane out to a hub. The hubs are the major towns for each school district. They are really small towns compared to what you’re used to in the Lower 48 though.
In the hubs, you’ll find roads and cars and taxis and all the things you would expect. Even restaurants, which will be amazing for you if you are moving from one of the villages. I actually haven’t seen a hub with a movie theater, but I haven’t been to all of them so maybe there is one.
The benefit of a hub is that there is a lot more to do and you can most likely get internet, even though it’s still going to cost you $400 a month for 100 GB. There’s also a good chance you can get cable TV.
I hadn’t had cable TV for probably 15 years prior to moving to remote Alaska, but I was really psyched when I moved to a hub and could get it! There’s just not much to do in these remote villages.
If you are teaching in a hub you will stay here. There will be someone from the school district there to pick you up and take you and your luggage to your housing. If you are not teaching in the hub you will be waiting at the airport for the bush plane that will take you to your village.
One of the most common problems with bush planes is that all your luggage is not going to make it on the plane with you. The plane only holds a few people, maybe 6 to 8, and when you think of all the luggage people are carrying there’s just not enough room.
Your best bet is to take everything you need in your backpack. You might be spending a day or two without your luggage, so whatever you think you’ll need, get it in your backpack because that might be the only thing you can take on the plane with you.
One time on a return trip the only thing I could get on the plane was my laptop case, which fit in the wing flap. Thankfully I already lived there, so getting home I had all my stuff. BUT if I was new to the village that would have been horrific.
When you get to the village, just like in the hub, someone from the school district will be there to pick you up and bring you to your housing.
Getting Around The Village
For the most part, you will be walking. The villages are small, so it’s not a big problem. You’ll have no problem walking to the store or the post office. In villages with roads, the school will usually have a truck that you can borrow.
If you know you have a lot of packages that you need to get from the post office or sometimes if you just want to go shopping and don’t want to have to carry it off home or take a table you can borrow the school truck.
Sometimes the teachers at a school will organize trips to the store. Teachers will meet after school and everyone will go at the same time. One person will drop everyone off at their houses after shopping and then return the truck.
This is obviously the best way to go if you want to buy a lot of food.
In the hubs you can also take taxis. Most of them are five or six dollars per trip wherever you want to go. Sometimes, if you know you are going to be staying somewhere for a year or two, sometimes it makes more sense to purchase your own vehicle.
People always have ATVs for sale, and that seems like the most logical vehicle to have because you can use them in the winter and the summer. We ended up purchasing an ATV in Anchorage and having it shipped to where we were living.
It was cheaper to buy the ATV than it was to pay for cab rides for the two of us, twice a day every day. in the hub there’s a chance you could live too far away from the school, and your walk could be 30 minutes. And that’s just too far in the cold and the dark!
What Kind Of Clothing Should I Bring?
You can prepare for it to be very cold. Think of the coldest day you’ve had and what you were wearing or wish you were wearing on that day. Bring that. Usually, your walk to school will be fairly short, just a few minutes, so you won’t have to get super bundled up every morning.
However, you’ll be spending a lot of time outside because you’ll be walking to the store and the post office on a regular basis. You’ll also be going to snowmachine races, trying out ice fishing, or just exploring the village and taking pictures.
To be comfortable outside in the Alaska weather, obviously a really warm winter jacket and some snow pants are necessary. The difference snow pants make is incredible.
I know that snow pants aren’t a typical piece of outerwear in the Lower 48 unless you’re doing a specific outdoor activity. You will be very happy to have them, though, when you have to walk to the store and it’s freezing cold and windy.
The most popular boots seem to be Muck Boots. They are really warm and they’ll keep your feet completely dry during the muddy season. No matter where you live you’re going to have a muddy season. I was surprised by how warm my Muck boots were.
You can go on their website and find all kinds of fancy Muck Boots so you don’t have to wear the plain old boring black Muck Boots if you don’t want.
You will obviously need a really warm hat and some really warm mittens. Mittens are usually better than gloves because your fingers can keep each other warm. If you will be riding an ATV or a snow machine that is a completely different story but not one I’ll cover here.
Personally, I had a full-length L.L. Bean (hello Maine) jacket and I also had an L.L. Bean shell. The shell was my shoulder season jacket, but in the really, really cold parts of winter, I wore my shell under my full-length jacket–especially when I rode the ATV to work.
A scarf is a good idea as is some sort of face covering, whether it’s a ski mask or balaclava. You also need a really warm hat that covers your ears. Depending on how cold it is you might want to wear a smaller hat under your bigger hat. It actually gets that cold.
With these items you should be all set unless you plan on staying outside for extended periods of time.
What Type Of Work Clothes Do I Need Teaching In Bush Alaska?
Work clothes are pretty casual. Some people do wear nice clothes to work, and I, for the most part, did that as well. I dressed a little more casually than I did when working in the lower 48, but a little more formal than a lot of teachers did at my school.
I wore nice corduroys or pants with a sweater usually. Occasionally I wore skirt just because I missed wearing them. Very few teachers will be wearing dresses in a remote village in Alaska! However, a decent number of male teachers did wear ties, which surprised me.
You can totally wear jeans and a decent shirt and not feel out of place like you would in a Lower 48 School. It’s remote Alaska. Neither Vogue nor GQ are showing up anytime soon.
There are teachers who even taught in sweatpants. It is super casual and nobody really cares what you’re wearing. That’s also one of the benefits of working in bush Alaska. You won’t need any fancy work clothes so you can X out your clothing budget.
Download the free:
Priority Packing List
One Week Prep List
Request the full guide at the bottom of the page.
What Is Teacher Housing Like In Remote Alaska?
In the villages, housing is provided through the school districts. You will pay a minimal amount of rent and that will come out of your check automatically every month. The housing in the remote villages is generally pretty nice.
In one village I lived in, the apartment was maybe two years old and it was really, really nice and completely modern. It was a duplex with a laundry room in between the two apartments. Each apartment had its own washer and dryer though.
There was a section of older teacher housing there as well. These were all individual little houses with two or three small bedrooms. I liked my brand new housing better even though it was part of a duplex, but some teachers preferred the individual houses.
Both came with everything you needed, including washers and dryers. If you were going to be teaching in a hub, most districts provide at least one year of teacher housing, and after that year you need to find your own apartment. That can be extremely challenging.
There is very little housing available and what is available is very expensive. The hub I lived in provided teacher housing the entire time the teacher lived there, and that’s the only way I would live in a hub.
So, assuming you will be living in teacher housing you’ll find it modern, warm, and everything you need. Again they usually even have washers and dryers in each apartment. Although, if you’re in a hub, you might be in a large apartment complex with a shared laundry room.
I’ve never lived in one of the large apartment buildings but one of my teacher friends did and she told me that they had a shared laundry room.
We lived in three different districts, and we were very happy with our housing in two of them. In the third, it was acceptable but small. All of the other teacher housing I visited there was very nice.
How Do I Get My Mail In Bush Alaska?
The most important thing to know about the mail is that it is extremely unreliable. Amazon Prime can take 3-4 weeks to get to you.
My guess, from what I’ve seen and heard, is that they collect all the mail in Anchorage and store it in containers that look like little trailers. Once a container is full it will then be shipped out to a hub on an Alaska Airlines flight.
Once it’s at the hub, it is sorted by village and sent via bush plane out to the villages. Whatever they can fit is what gets to the village. People and luggage take priority over the mail.
When your mail gets there depends on the weather, when the trailers get filled up, and how many people are on a bush plane. Just don’t ever count on your mail getting there on time.
You can also try to get a post office box. At some of the post offices in the smaller villages you won’t be able to get one because there aren’t any available. If you don’t have a post office box, the school usually picks up the mail on a regular basis and brings it to the school.
Where Do I Get My Groceries In Bush Alaska?
The type of options that you’ll have for grocery stores really depends on the size of your village. We’ve been in villages where there’s one grocery store and one Native store, and your options are extremely limited.
In one of the villages it was so unusual for fresh produce to make it to the store that when it came in people sent word out over UHF. Those of us who didn’t have UHF never found out in time to actually get fresh produce.
Most of the other food was frozen or shelf-stable, as you can imagine.
Things that were heavy were very, very expensive. For example water. A gallon of water could cost anywhere from $10 to $15 depending on where you were living. A 12-pack of soda could be also $10 to $15 as well.
The cost of groceries is very, very high in remote Alaska. If you are in a hub you will have a better chance of a real grocery store. They will have produce sections and a much bigger variety than you’ll find in a smaller more remote villages.
There are several other ways that you can order groceries from stores in Alaska. Those are called bush orders, and I provide more details about those in the free guide I offer. You can request it at the bottom of this page.
Another option is to be part of a CSA or community-supported agriculture plan. there are several in the state but the most popular one seems to be Full Circle. I ordered from Full Circle in all three of the villages I lived in.
In one village it was picked up and brought to the school every week, which was fantastic. You could just grab your box on the way home. At another site, it was delivered to the airport (or air strip, really) and you never knew when it was delivered.
Not only did you have to take the school truck to go pick it up, but it could have been sitting out in the freezing cold weather for a couple of days. That was really depressing and I had to stop getting my fresh produce because so much of it was wasted.
In the third district that I worked in, the produce was delivered near the school. If you didn’t have a vehicle you could go with someone from the school in the truck to pick up your delivery.
It was usually the principal of the school who drove people around. But you could also just grab a taxi to pick up your order. Full Circle offered more than just produce, which was handy. I think some people basically did all their shopping through Full Circle.
Amazon Delivers To Bush Alaska!
You could also order a lot of dry goods and some canned goods through Amazon. It could take 3-4 weeks for your order to come in, so it’s not something you could do in a hurry. There are also A LOT of things that Amazon will not deliver to the villages.
Sharing In Community Food
There was also the opportunity to share in community food. For example, in one village there were so many moose, that they would offer moose to all the teachers. They would literally put the dressed moose in the Home Ec Room and you could go in and cut off chunks of it!
In another village I lived in, they were whalers, so there was the opportunity to try that as well. If you become a part of the community, I’m sure you would be able to get some of the whale meat to take home.
It’s a little challenging when you are in a really remote village, but once you get used to it you get into a rhythm you’ll be fine.
What Kind Of Entertainment Is There In Bush Alaska?
The type of entertainment you have depends on what type of village you are in. If you are not in a hub you won’t be able to have internet at home, for the most part. There will be no cable TV. There will be no restaurants. there will be no public libraries.
There will only be grocery stores, the post office, and the school.
If you live in a hub you will be able to get cable TV and super expensive internet. In some of the remote villages internet is available as well, but it is so unreliable and it costs so much money to get somebody out there to install it that no one has it.
If you live in a hub you will also have restaurants. In the hub we lived in there were pizza restaurants, a Chinese restaurant, a kind of American restaurant,and a Thai restaurant. It was pretty exciting when we moved there and saw all the options we had.
However, it does take a bite out of your budget. For example, a large pizza to be delivered cost $40 plus a tip. A pretty expensive proposition. For the two of us to get get two items of Chinese food each, it cost about $80.
The hub also had a library which was awesome. If you look through my other posts, you’ll see I promote libraries wherever I can, like with Bangor, Maine, Island Falls, Maine, and Islesboro, Maine.
Many of the communities will also have different types of celebrations that you can take part in, like snow machine races or spring festivals. But, for the most part, the only entertainment there will be is the entertainment you bring or make yourself.
Can I Get Alcohol In Bush Alaska?
That really depends on whether you’re in a damp village or a dry village. In a dry village, there is no alcohol allowed. Period. You can’t bring any in and you might even have difficulty buying yeast at the store because people use it to make alcohol.
In a damp village, you can bring alcohol in but you cannot buy it or order it there. So, one time when we were flying back in after Christmas, we were able to use one of our two suitcases to bring beer and wine into the village. Which was perfectly legal.
In another damp village, you were allowed to bring alcohol in but you were also allowed to order it to be flown into the village. It was incredibly expensive but you could call in a bush order for alcohol.
It would be delivered to the Distribution Center, which charges you more money to pick it up. Also, in order to order alcohol, you have to get an alcohol permit from the village. The alcohol permit costs either $150 or $200 per person for the first year, and less in subsequent years.
They kept track of how much alcohol you ordered each month as there were limits on the different types of alcohol you could bring in.
Again, it was really expensive and I think once I paid fifty or sixty dollars for a small bottle of Baileys Irish Cream for Christmas during the pandemic when we weren’t allowed to fly out.
Download the free:
Priority Packing List
One Week Prep List
Request the full guide at the bottom of the page.
What Kind Of Healthcare Is Available In Bush Alaska?
If you are in a remote village you most likely will have a health center available. You won’t have a hospital or doctor’s offices or dentists or anything like that. The health centers usually have physician’s assistants and nurses, along with a have a rotating crew of doctors.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be a doctor there every day of the week every week. You will often see a physician’s assistant. If you need anything more serious you will be flown to the hub where there is a hospital.
I’ve lived in a hub and we had a very nice hospital there, and that’s where people from remote villages were sent when they had something that couldn’t be taken care of at the health center.
Even at the hospitals they have rotating specialists coming in so you can’t always see the type of doctor you need right away unless you fly to Anchorage. Like most hospitals, the hospital has a pharmacy and that’s where most people will get their medication.
If you are on medication, your best bet is to start planning well ahead of the time that you will be leaving for Alaska. There are some medications that for some reason can’t be shipped to Alaska.
I know teachers who had to have their medication shipped to someone else in the Lower 48, who could then mail it to them in Alaska. I don’t know if that teacher had tried to set something up with the hospital pharmacy or not, because I didn’t ask.
However, since we were in a village, not the hub, it sounded like certain medications just aren’t allowed to be sent through the mail. The mail is the only option when you’re in a remote village so that can certainly be a problem.
Definitely take a look at any medications that you take and start working on that as soon as possible.
Can I Get Internet In Bush Alaska?
Unless you are in a hub, you won’t have internet or television. Most teachers don’t bother with internet at home because it’s so expensive and unreliable. Do you want to pay $400/month for 100 gigabites? That’s about the going rate for internet.
The schools will all have pretty decent internet. I found it was about as reliable as any internet in the Lower 48. Of course, they have special equipment and a special connection that you will not get at your apartment.
In a hub, you will be able to get internet with no problem. Well, actually the problem is that it will cost you around $400 a month for 100 GB. 100 GB it goes really fast. In one of the remote villages we lived in, internet was just not even possible.
In another village, you could get internet but it was a huge ordeal and you had to have a white antenna that was attached to the modem with a cable. It looked like a little modem itself. We had to velcro it in our window, and it had to have a line of sight to what they called their Earth Tower.
It was so unreliable and it was so slow that it was really not worth the money. We were just so desperate to have the internet at home that we paid the money for it, but it definitely was not worth it.
Your best bet, if you’re in a village, is to download things at the school and then you can take them home and watch them there. Or, if you don’t mind spending a lot of time at school you can just go do all of your internet stuff at school.
You can save your home time for reading, cooking, relaxing, and doing whatever else it is you want to do that doesn’t require the internet.
Will I Have Cell Phone Service?
Unless you happen to have GCI, your current cell phone provider will not work in remote Alaska. Some say they have coverage everywhere but they don’t.
You will have to get your cell service through GCI (they are the company that offers cable as well) That’s why during school orientation many districts will take you to the GCI store in order to get your cell service set up.
So, if you have a current cell phone plan and you are paying for your phone on your cell phone plan, you will have to pay off your phone in order to get GCI service on that phone. Just be prepared for that.
Also since you won’t have internet at home you might think you could just stream things on your cell phone. Good luck! In a hub, you usually can. However, if you download too much they back your service down to a really slow speed so you can’t win.
In a village, just forget it! You simply won’t be able to download because the speed will be so slow. You’ll get an error or it will take like an entire day to download a YouTube video. Your cell phone really isn’t for downloading. It’s for email texting and scrolling through social media.
What Are The School Buildings Like?
The school buildings are quite nice and very modern. As you already know, they have pretty good internet access, and most of the kids have laptops and/or there’s a computer lab available.
I was a little surprised when I first got there because I didn’t know what to expect. I had this image of some kind of old-fashioned one-room school house. That’s completely wrong. You’ll have computers and smart boards and every other modern thing that you can think of.
The classrooms and libraries are quite nice. They’re pretty much like any school you would find in the lower 48, just a lot smaller. Most of the village schools will be K-12 schools. But the hubs usually have an elementary, middle, and high school.
What Are The Kids Like In Remote Alaska Schools?
Would you be surprised to find out that the kids in bush Alaska schools are exactly like the kids you’re teaching in lower 48 schools? Because they are. They are listening to the same music and wearing the same clothes and they have the same attitudes LOL.
You won’t have to adjust to the students at all. They will virtually be exactly like the students you have right now. One of the main differences is that Alaskan students take a lot of time off for subsistence activities.
During hunting season, or when it’s time to go to fish camp, or during whaling season, they will be out of school for weeks at a time. That’s really the biggest challenge to teaching in schools in bush Alaska.
Oh, another interesting difference is that instead of boarding a bus to compete in sports at a rival school, our kids board a bush plane! That’s right. If the Point Lay team wants to play the Utqiagvik team, the whole team has to fly in!
It can be hard to get into a good rhythm with your class when you have kids who are cycling in and out due to subsistence activities. obviously, those activities are extremely important and they probably learn a lot more out on subsistence than they do in the classroom!
It still makes it challenging to make sure all of your students are getting the same coverage with all your units. They’ll have a lot of work to catch up on, and that can be difficult.
However, they are also, like most kids, a ton of fun.
What Is The Teaching Day Like?
You can expect your teaching day in a bush Alaska school to pretty much be the same as it is in the Lower 48. There really isn’t much of a difference. Most of the classes or a little smaller but that was about it.
We still needed to use the Alaska state standards when we are teaching. We have a regular school day. We have staff meetings. Bascially, everything you have in the Lower 48 you’ll have here.
Unless you’re going to a hub, you’ll probably be in a K-12 school. In those smaller schools there are times that you’ll be asked to teach classes that are unusual for you.
For example in one school even though I’m a middle and high school teacher, due to the inordinate number of 5th grade students, I ended up taking a group of them.
That was really unusual for me, and it was not something that was required. But when working with the other teachers it just made sense for me to take those 5th graders. I had extra time in my day while the other teacher was crazy busy.
It’s sort of an all-hands-on-deck, but not in a frantic way. You’re in a small school. You’re all in a remote environment, away from your homes and you all just pitch in. That’s another thing about teaching in remote Alaska.
The vast majority of teachers are from somewhere else. So you could be working with teachers from Florida Michigan Texas California you name it. Teachers come from all over the country to work there.
Is It Really Dark For Half The Year?
Not really. In two of the villages I worked in, that was not the case. It was definitely like dusk or twilight during the middle of the day, but it wasn’t completely dark. The days were really, really short though. It was dark until ~11am, and it started getting dark again around 3pm or so.
However, one of the districts I worked at was at the top of Alaska. The sun did go below the horizon around Thanksgiving, and it didn’t rise above the horizon until the end of January. So, yes, there it was dark for about three months or so straight.
Actually, the darkness isn’t that bad. It’s the 24/7 light that is awful. It completely messes with your circadian rhythm. You find that students are really late, if they show up to school at all, because they ended up staying awake all night.
Once you’ve experienced it, you’ll understand how that happens. Most people put tinfoil on their bedroom windows to keep out the light. They put blackout curtains in their main living area so that they can close them to start winding down at night.
You need the darkness so your body knows that it’s time to start winding down and you can go to sleep. We actually didn’t have any clocks in our apartment because we just used our phones. We would try to take a guess at what time it was, and we were usually off by several hours.
It is so hard to tell what time of day it is when every hour and every minute is the same amount of light. You could literally watch the sun doing a circle overhead because it just never sets.
It is literally like the middle of a sunny day even in the middle of the night. It’s pretty awful.
Here are a couple of big adjustments you will have to make when living in remote Alaska.
Say goodbye to scrolling your social media for hours and hours each week. You won’t be able to afford the internet at home!
You can’t be afraid to fly in really small planes! To get to the remote villages, you’ll be on planes that hold as little as six passengers up maybe twelve or so.
See more information on things you’ll have to adjust to when living in a remote Alaskan village.
And here’s just a beautiful picture of the sun setting over the Yukon River. Alaska is an amazingly beautiful place.
Conclusion: Is Teaching In Bush Alaska Worth It?
I think it absolutely is. Whether you are looking for your first job or trying to get away from a hectic lifestyle, teaching in bush Alaska could be for you. Of course, you have to be okay with the cold because it’s Alaska. It’s cold.
But your teaching day will pretty much be the same as in the Lower 48, and your kids will pretty much be the same, but it does feel a lot more laid back. Maybe that’s because people don’t dress as formally for work.
Or maybe it’s because there’s such a lot of teacher turnover that they want to make it as inviting and comfortable for teachers as possible. I don’t know. But it does seem to move at a slower pace.
Plus, where else are you going to find 10-year-olds that bag 1,000lb moose, or students coming in with frostbite on their faces because they were breaking trail on the frozen ocean? Where can you live next door to a whaling captain? In remote Alaska villages!
So whether you want to go for adventure or to get away from it all may be to just make a whole lot of money for a few years, teaching in bush Alaska is an amazing experience and it’s absolutely worth it.
If you have any other questions about it feel free to email me I would be happy to answer any questions you have.