McKenzie Allen ’13 and Nataly Meyer are walking the main road in Akiachak. The dirt and gravel strip is one of the only roads in the rural fishing village, with the Kuskokwin River on one side and buildings with raised foundations on the other.
Walking along the road, the two young women stop when they see a group of children playing, which is often. It’s a sunny day in Akiachak and the Yupiit School District is just starting its summer program. These two Lutes are busy drumming up excitement and awareness that school is open.
Allen and Meyer are teaching pre-K, five-year-olds who will be attending kindergarten this upcoming school year.
Last Tuesday, they did their first bit of recruitment.
“We actually did a home visit too,” Meyer said.
“Yeah, we got invited into the house,” Allen said. “The community has been really welcoming.”
“It’s been really easy to just go up and start talking to people,” Meyer said.
They stop by a pair of girls and a little boy. The girls are a little too old for the Lute’s class, but can check out the older class. They talk about a litter of puppies that the girls are playing with and busy naming.
“It was the puppies that brought us in at first,” Allen jokes.
The Lutes start their conversations with each group of children with smiles and an enthusiastic “You should come to summer school.”
The next day the class will be making dance feathers. They tell the children they’d love to see them at school. Class starts at 10 a.m., but with sunset being past midnight, it’s life in the north to get to bed late and wake up a little later in the day. So, Meyer and Allen tell every child it’s OK if they show up at noon.
The two Lutes continue their nightly walk through town, talking to as many children as they can. Many of the children join Meyer and Allen on their walk. The two girls they first met show Meyer how to whistle with a reed. She can’t quite get the hang of it, but keeps trying throughout the walk. She eventually, gets it to work once, but is unable to repeat the sound.
Allen and Meyer say getting out into the community is a vital part in education. When the two student taught in Namibia, they did the same thing.
“You can’t just teach in the classroom, you have to connect with where they live and what they’re experiencing,” Allen said.
It’s an approach to teaching the whole student.
“It made me think I really need to go to Alaska because I know it makes a difference,” Meyer said. “Teachers always talk about building a listening community, well a big part of that is including the family and the community.”
Allen and Meyer have already seen their outreach make a difference – a few students show up that they talked to. Some not even in their class, even before noon.
– Chris Albert, Web Content Manager