Fall is Upon Us


The days are beginning to get shorter and the weather is cooling down. The colors are changing from lush greens to oranges, yellows, and browns. Fall is nearing and the nice sunny days are getting fewer and fewer. I can’t believe how much this place has changed since I arrived six weeks ago. We just finished our third week of school! I guess as they say it “Time flies when you’re having fun.”

Over the past two weeks so much has happened.  To begin, I found out I will be coaching the girls and boys Jr. High Basketball teams and I am also helping co-sponsor Student Council. I am so excited to finally be able to make that transition from a player to a coach! Who would have ever thought I would get the opportunity to share my love for the game with the youth in Alaska! Unfortunately, we do not begin our season until this winter!

As for my first graders they are probably the best group of first grade students any teacher would want. They have already come a long way since that first day of school. I am now down to 11 students, so I have a very small class! It’s funny how the days I feel like I’ve been one of those “mean teachers I swore I’d never be,” the students seem to flood me with hugs and kind words.

I’ve decided that I’ve either:

a. scared them so they feel the need to make the “teacher” happy


B. They truly do realize I care and I want the best for them!

I have never seen a group of kids work so hard for me!  It’s truly an amazing feeling when you can see your kids understand what you, the teacher, expect. It just blows my mind to look back at the first day and now 13 days into school where my kids are. They get it! Don’t get me wrong carpet time and the stories that it brings with it  makes me want to scream at times but overall these kids have made an effort to follow my expectations. It truly brings a smile to my face when I see them each morning.

We have been able to take some cultural field trips together. Last week we went on a walk to find plants that are made into Yupik medicine. Caiggluk or stink weed is a plant that is used to make a tea for aches of all kinds. We had fun labeling the parts of a plant and classifying if it was living or non-living.

This week we were able to go berry picking. I realized that these kids are experts when it comes to berry picking. I pick berries but I am kind of slow, well mostly I like food, so I like to eat the berries. So as my kids are picking away, “teacher” is putting the away. Anytime my kiddos would ask Ms. Courtney where is your bag of berries I would just say that I was helping fill another child’s ziplock baggie. So as I ate and picked a few berries a few kids out of the other first grade class begin walking towards the trees… Ok, so I live in Mountain Village, AK. Moose, Bear, Hairy Man, etc. live among us. Going toward trees is not the brightest idea. So I, being the strict teacher I am yell “Boys, get back here.” I get no response. I yell a second time, again no response. So being the great teacher I am I yell “Boys I would watch out if I were you! I would hate for a bear to eat you! I guess that would give the rest of us a chance to get to the road though.” Those boys came running back pretty quick and didn’t leave the group again.

The purpose of this berry picking adventure was to get enough berries to make agutak, or better known as Eskimo ice cream. Since I arrived six weeks ago I have tried dried fish, seal, whale, herring eggs, salmon eggs, and eaten tons of salmon. The one thing I had yet to try was the famous “Eskimo Ice Cream,” Agutak.

The ingredients for this dish include:

9 Cups Crisco

1 1/2 cup sugar

teaspoonish of veggie oil

a bunch of berries (usually some white fish is added)

You may be thinking 9 CUPS OF CRISCO! Let me inform you that although I could probably pee in a skillet and fry chicken for the next week it was very good! Never in my life did I realize that Crisco isn’t so bad, aside from the little issue of possible clogging of arteries I would say Eskimo Ice Cream will be a dish that I will have again in the very near future.

Last week I was introduced to Eskimo Dancing. We had our first potluck at the school, then had our first experience with Eskimo Dancing. This is something everyone needs to experience. In the day we live in it is rare to see people that value their culture. For many, it isn’t intentional, it’s been something that has been forgotten, something that is not priority but for the Yupik people culture is pride.

With fall nearing, days becoming shorter, temperatures cooling down, berry picking is in its final days. Sunday afternoon I was invited on a boat ride upriver to pick berries near St. Mary’s with a native family. With Ms. Mollie (my aide) and Nuka’s family we headed out for an afternoon of berry picking and a bonfire. Spending time with this family was just what I needed! We had a great time, ate lots of food and felt prepared to conquer the week ahead!


Sunday was a beautiful day for a boat ride to St. Mary’s for berry picking and bonfire


My kids are so stinkin cute! Love these guys!


Out near St. Mary’s picking the berries


I know my kiddos love me when they bring me sweet snacks from home! Made my day!


Berry picking on the Tundra




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