The Rural Educator
William N. Miller Memorial School, Napakiak
After spending time in Anchorage, working as a carpenter, Glenn Charlie wanted to go back to the village to build things — he never expected he’d be building up his community through education instead of wood and nails.
Glenn was born and raised in Scammon Bay and now calls Napakiak, on the banks of the Kuskokwim River, home. He works as a Elementary Teacher’s Aide at William N. Miller School in Napakiak. In a few years, he expects to be a teacher himself, thanks to the T.E.A.C.H. program (Training Educators for Achieving Certificated Hire). This program assists Yugtun fluent and literate educators in the district in becoming certified teachers, in partnership with the UAF Kuskowkim campus.
He called his own education “brutal,” and swore he’d never go back to school. “After high school I told myself: ‘I’ll never go back to school.’ But four years after I graduated, I went to Job Corps to become a certified carpenter. After that I said, ‘I’m not going back to school. Then coming back to Napakiak, working in the school made me think, why not become a teacher?” Glenn said. “So everything I said about not going back to school — I ate what I said.”
Looking back, he knows his teachers really wanted him to learn, and as an aide and future teacher, he’s developed those same goals, albeit with his own ideas about how to help a struggling student to succeed — it involves a lot of encouragement.
He started working in the school just an hour a day part of the year, helping with lunch duty, but his willingness to help has him on track to teach. As someone with deep roots in the community, he can offer something rare in rural Alaska teachers — a commitment to stay and a real understanding of life in a village.
He’s taking classes in subjects like writing and math to improve his capacity to teach those core subjects, but he already has experience in teaching some uniquely Alaskan skills like wilderness survival and setting fish traps. He’s also excited about bringing Elders into the classroom to teach students about their culture.
Alaska struggles with high rates of teacher turnover, with out-of-state educators often staying in classrooms only a year or two. The students and community of Napakiak can really benefit from dedicated local educators like Glenn.
Beyond his classes through the T.E.A.C.H. program, Glenn’s NEA-Alaska membership offers professional development opportunities vital to bettering himself as an educator. He also values the benefits his union provides as an organization and through collective bargaining. His path to becoming a teacher wasn’t a straight shot, but he’s proud to be on the path and would recommend teaching as a career to his own students.
Glenn’s main advice to his students today, however, is this: “Get an education. Succeed. And live the best you can.”