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Elementary Principal Departs Unalaska After Nearly Two Decades

Laura Kraegel/KUCB

When school lets out Thursday, Unalaska students will say goodbye to a handful of longtime teachers and administrators.

That includes Eric Andersen, principal of Eagle’s View Elementary Achigaalux.

He arrived in Unalaska almost 18 years ago for his first teaching job.


Eric Andersen: I was working on a tugboat in Cook Inlet. I decided to go up to the job fair, and I was dressed in my Carhartts, I smelled like diesel, I had paint all over me, and I just didn’t think about it at the time. But I walked in and came to the Dutch Harbor table.

Sharon Svarny-Livingston and Bob Barnwell, I believe, were the interviewers at that time. They were talking to me about what I did, and they were like, ‘Well, you’ll fit right in in Dutch Harbor!’ I worked on boats, and I liked being on the water. So they scheduled an interview for me, and one thing led to another. The next thing I know, I’m calling my wife and saying, ‘Do you want to move to Dutch Harbor?” 

KUCB: That was in 1999. You moved here as a kindergarten and reading instructor, and then you taught different elementary classes for a number of years. How did you eventually transition into the role of principal?

EA: Well, I never thought about being a principal for a very long time. I always thought it’d be great to have a little more in what a school does. But here teachers have a lot of freedom to direct their own classrooms, which dissipated the idea of being a principal. But as time went on, the opportunity arose.

I applied for it, and I got the job. So here I am, three years later! I’m only in my third year as a principal, so I’m still beginning, I’m still learning, and I’m hoping to continue learning. That’s part of the draw of moving on. Educational opportunities in Anchorage.

KUCB: Congratulations on your next job as principal of the Winterberry charter school in Anchorage. Before you leave the island, what advice do you have for new teachers and administrators arriving in Unalaska?

EA: Well, I would appreciate the working class community. Parents are working 12-hour minimum shifts, especially during the busy season. Kids are not left on their own, so to speak, but they have to be more responsible before and after school. We’re different that way, and that can be a frustrating part of teaching here, but it’s also just part of it. You need to think hard about that when you’re working with these kids.

KUCB:  While you leave folks at the schools with that message, is there anything you’d like to say to the entire community after almost 18 years here?

EA: I would just like to say that it’s been a great part of my life, being part of this community. You just don’t forget this place. Growing up in Alaska and being an Alaskan all my life, I never thought about coming out to the Aleutian Islands. But living out here, teaching out here, and becoming a part of this community has been one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. I wish everybody well, and I’ll stay in contact. Thank you.

Laura Kraegel reported for KUCB from 2016 until 2020. She was KUCB's news director starting in 2019.
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