Nanwalek School is making an impression from across the Cook Inlet, with upgrades to programs and the ways staff are implementing them at the small school.
The students attending the school, an integral part of the local community, live a subsistence lifestyle, said Nanwalek School principal Nancy Kleine. The courses at the school are designed maintain that way of living and also make the students competitive professionally, she said. Kleine explained the reasoning for the schools’ targeted programs during a presentation to the Board of Education, at the Nov. 3 board meeting.
Kleine said it is important the staff uphold the school’s mission statement, which is to “honor cultural identity while developing students to be effective members of society.
Local and nationally reaching organizations are taking notice.
The Board of Education presented the Golden Apple Award to James Reinseth, a Nanwalek School teacher for his outstanding involvement in improving school curriculum and taking interest in the needs of his students.
Stability is a huge factor in student performance in rural schools, said board member Sunni Hilts. Reinseth is a quality teacher who is providing his students with that necessary stability with his commitment to living and working in the community, she said.
Hilts lives across the Cook Inlet in Seldovia and said she was glad to see rural schools at the meeting. Since it is a challenge commuting regularly to rural areas in the Borough it is productive for the board to be able to see what happens in the schools that are operating from a distance, she said.
Nanwalek also recently awarded another prestigious award delivered from within The White House. In 2013 President Barack Obama implemented the ConnectED initiative which grants schools with technology such as Apple products for use in the classroom to ensure students have experience learning through different methods.
Nanwalek was the only Alaska school to receive the grant, according to Apple.com. Through out the country 114 schools in 29 states received Apple products and training for the devices, according to the website.
“A lack of equal access to technology and knowledge puts entire communities and populations of students at a disadvantage, especially minorities,” according to apple.com.
This year Kleine said Nanwalek hired their first time special education teacher, which has made a huge difference at the school. She said they have also started culinary arts and welding classes for the students to learn more vocational oriented training in the classrooms.
Kleine also wanted to make sure the school shared some of their community’s culture while at the board meeting.
Through out the presentation Sally Ash, a staff member at Nanwalek School, translated segments of Klein’s speech into Sugt’stun, the village’s language, for the board.
Kleine asked the board to stand and join her and Ash in the center of the room for a traditional school song. The board was already quite familiar with the related dance moves.
Ash led the board in a Sugt’stun sung version of “The Hokey Pokey.”
“Maybe a little unusual for board meeting but we wanted to liven things up here,” Kleine said.
Reach Kelly Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org