Along with new mask-wearing, social distancing, and hand-washing measures, Unalaska City School District welcomed six new teachers this school year.
Over the past couple of weeks, I've met with the new staff members to learn more about their backgrounds, hobbies, and their transition into the community.
I sat down with Leticia Holloway, Unalaska's new junior high and freshman science teacher during her first week as a new instructor. She's been in Unalaska since 2015 with her husband Kyle Holloway who is also a teacher at the school.
She said teaching is a lot like helping customers—something she enjoyed very much at her previous job at Unalaska's courthouse. But, Holloway said, while she liked helping people at the courthouse, she prefers her new, mini customers.
"For teaching, I have different types of customers that don't really know what they need or need to know. I kind of have to help them figure that out," Holloway said, in reference to her new students this year and her transition from working at the courthouse to teaching. "So it's a little bit more [work], but customer service is very much part of being a teacher."
Teaching has been a lifelong goal for Holloway. It was something she dreamed of, but was discouraged from exploring when she was younger.
"I'm from Brazil. And in Brazil, I was actually very discouraged to become a teacher," said Holloway. "I have very many teachers in my family who have repeatedly mentioned how [poorly] teachers are treated in Brazil, in terms of salary, in terms of working conditions, and so many other things."
So instead of getting into teaching right away, Holloway said she got her degree in geophysics in Brazil. And because she got into the STEM field, she was able to do an exchange program in the U.S. in 2012.
She said that's when her life in the U.S. began, in Laramie, at the University of Wyoming. From there, Holloway applied for a grant to continue and get her master's degree in hydrology and ecology.
Holloway didn't quite finish her master's program—she was just shy a dissertation. And she said many factors played a role in that, including moving to Unalaska, where she faced communication and internet issues.
But when she saw that the position for a science teacher at the junior high school was still open last spring, she decided to use her expertise in the field and apply for the position. She also applied for a master's program through University of Alaska Southeast so that she could teach, while simultaneously working on obtaining her teaching degree.
Because of the way school is designed this year, to accommodate social distancing measures and other public health guidance in the wake of the pandemic, Holloway said everybody this year, even veteran teachers, are in a sense first-year teachers.
"All those questions that I have, everybody else also has," said Holloway. "So, we're all in the same boat, learning all these different procedures and different roles. And none of the things that we're doing we can say are the correct way to do it. It's just the most correct for the information that we currently have."
While the workload and stress is sometimes overwhelming—especially in the midst of a pandemic, Holloway said it's gratifying and that it's in her nature to push herself. And she said she's happy to have other teachers to turn to as resources and support.
If you've driven down E Broadway recently, it's likely you've seen Holloway walking with her husband Kyle and two springer spaniels. When she has free time, Holloway said she enjoys walking her dogs and going on hikes, but she misses big group activities like the yearly wine tasting event at the Grand Aleutian Hotel and ballroom-style dancing—anything from square dancing to calypso to bachata.