The Elementary School Teacher
Inlet View Elementary School, Anchorage
For Kate Hamre, the classroom goes beyond her four walls. Whether she’s bringing a freshly caught salmon into school or taking students out into nature, her students are in for an authentically Alaskan education.
Kate was born and raised in South Anchorage. She went Outside for her education, as many young people do, but she always knew Alaska was home. She returned here a few years ago and has been an educator here ever since. She currently teaches first- and second-graders at Inlet View Elementary School.
Kate loves tailoring curriculum to fit with her students’ experiences growing up in Alaska. To teach about landforms, she directed students to create treasure maps, encouraging them to use their imagination — pirates, fairies and unicorns were all welcome — but she also ties it into their real life surroundings and environment. “We want to encourage their creativity, and associate how different parts of our world fit together. Like, you look outside and you see that mountain and how it sits next to that river there, stuff like that.” Kate said.
What Kate spends much of her time teaching — even when she’s talking about another topic — is Social Emotional Learning. She teaches her students to listen, to follow, to lead and to be good young citizens in the classroom and the world at large. Her goal is to empower her students to take what they’re taught and apply it to solve problems that may arise.
She goes to great lengths to use curriculum to teach important skills, but also to use real life to support curriculum. “I caught a salmon and I thought it would be cool to let the students filet and dissect it.” Kate recalls. “Because catching salmon is a part of our Alaska lifestyle. They were so excited about it.
“I try to help my students make real life connections in the classroom that they can take into the world around them.”
The connections kids make — whether it’s learning the salmon life cycle with a fish right there or grasping a more abstract concept — are what make teaching worthwhile for Kate. She loves to see the look on students’ faces when they come to understand a concept being taught, whether it comes quickly or after lots of hard work.
What helps Kate as an educator is having support — from the community, from parents and from her union and fellow union members. From her experiences so far, she finds her work in the classroom more effective when the class sizes are manageable and when she has the time and space to prepare authentic, quality, and effective lessons for her students — things NEA-Alaska fights for on behalf of educators like Kate.