UAF secures $14.9 million to mentor teachers new to Alaska

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The University of Alaska Fairbanks has secured a $14.9-million grant from the U.S. Department of Education and Innovation Research to expand its teacher mentorship program. The Alaska Statewide Mentor Project will expand from serving only first- and second-year teachers to mentoring all teachers new to the state, including experienced educators from other countries.

Since 2004, ASMP has trained 157 mentors and served nearly 5,000 early-career teachers in 500 schools across Alaska’s 54 districts. The ED EIR grant extends the program’s reach to provide context and cultural nuances to help teachers adjust to the state’s unique educational landscape.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Alaska’s teacher shortage has worsened. “Teacher recruitment and retention are especially challenging in remote communities,” said Sue McIntosh, ASMP program manager.

“ASMP has a 20-year history of connecting teachers to the knowledge and resources that can smooth their way and help them succeed from the start so that they are more likely to stay,” she said.

Roughly 70 percent of Alaska’s new teachers come from Outside, and many of them go to rural communities, according to Janice Littlebear, ASMP’s cultural advocacy lead. 

“It is important for teachers new to Alaska — whether rural or urban, experienced or new to the profession — to understand their students’ communities, cultures and history,” she said. “They also need to know how to navigate the practical realities of life in a remote place — how to get food delivered, for instance, or access medical care.”

Glenda Findlay, K-12 outreach director, noted that the grant is research-oriented. “We’re looking forward to seeing the data. We anticipate continuing positive impacts on our schools, teacher retention and student outcomes,” she said. 

Recipients of EIR expansion grants are expected to “give back” to the education community. Littlebear said ASMP plans to partner with another state to create a roadmap for those interested in building similar statewide teacher mentor projects.