When school lets out Thursday, Unalaska students will say goodbye to a handful of longtime teachers and administrators.
That includes Mandy Andersen, a first grade teacher at Eagle’s View Elementary Achigaalux.
She has taught at the Unalaska City School District for the last eight years.
Mandy Andersen: The kids and the parents here -- I know everyone says it, and it’s almost cliché at this point, but they really are amazing. School is the priority, which is pretty incredible. That doesn’t happen [in other communities] with the regularity that it does here.
KUCB: You know that because you've taught at other districts. You moved away from Unalaska after eight years, taught for two years in other parts of the state and the country, and then you returned for this second eight-year stretch. What was it like coming back?
MA: Oh, it felt so good. We got back right at the time of the first Aleutian Life Forum -- maybe the second, but it was one of the first ones -- and it was so great to walk in and see all my friends. I mean, I’ll never forgetting walking in and seeing Sharon O’Malley. It was like, ‘I’m home!’
KUCB: Since you’ve been back, what are your favorite subjects and activities to do with your students?
MA: I really, really value place-based science, so I try to pull in as much as I can from this region. At first, we were doing life cycles in one of my science units, and they’d always done life cycles with insects. Like silk worms, which are really cool, but they’re not something my students are ever really going to see in their lives.
Why don’t we use some of the things here? So I created units, with help from Joanie Scott, who was the other first grade teacher at the time. We started with salmon and then a big crab unit. Joanie had a really great whale unit that we did.
KUCB: How do students respond to learning that way? To being outside and learning from the environment?
MA: Oh my gosh, 6- and 7-year-olds -- that’s what they want to do! Just explore and figure out what’s around them. Everything around them, they’re so excited about it. So if you can bring it close to them -- where they can take their parents out and say, ‘Look at this! I learned about this today!’ -- they love it. It’s their favorite. If you ask any of them, it’s either recess that’s their favorite or science. That’s really important to me.
KUCB: After building those kinds of relationships with your students and their families, what does it feel like to be leaving Unalaska again and moving to Anchorage?
MA: I’ll definitely miss it here a lot, and I really appreciate the people. I mean, you obviously just make your own family here, and that’s not something you find in very many places. Like in Anchorage, it’ll be easy to get on a plane and go see our daughter at Thanksgiving, instead of having all of our friends over. So I’ll miss that a lot.
I also love the way this community is rallying around ideas and movements right now. I do love the support that this community gives. When they feel it’s important, this community is 100 percent behind things.