Chapman principal Heidi Stokes receives educator of the year award

The chamber of commerce awarded the honor at Anchor Point’s Snow Rondi event at the end of February

Chapman principal Heidi Stokes received the 2024 Community Educator of the Year Award during Anchor Point’s Snow Rondi event at the end of February. The award was made by vote from Anchor Point residents to the Chamber of Commerce.

Eric Pederson, director of elementary education for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, provided feedback on Stokes’ contributions to the school and community. “Heidi embodies exactly what we look for in a principal. She builds relationships with students, parents, families, staff and peers, really the entire community. Her heart is in it,” he said.

He notes that she has been a leader with literacy with all of the Alaska Reads Acts components. Prior to taking the position of principal, Stokes was a teacher at Chapman. The 2023-24 school year is Stokes’ 15th year at the school. She was originally hired as a part-time physical education teacher and interventionist. She and her husband were interested in moving to Anchor Point because they also operate a charter business there, she said. As soon as she finished her degree in education in Utah, she applied for the position that was open at the Chapman school. Stokes then taught in pre-K and kindergarten education at the school. She has also coached basketball and soccer.

“It can be difficult to transition from teacher to administration because you build relationships with the other teachers as peers and then moving into a supervisory position and she has been able to overcome any obstacles with that,” Pederson said.

Prior to Stokes taking the position of principal, the school had a few years with quite a bit of turnover and there had been some challenging history in the community with the shooting that occurred outside the Warehouse grocery store in 2021, Pederson said.

“Heidi’s really been able to put that in the past and she’s doing a great job. She’s very genuine. She has her staff behind her and this award shows that she has the community behind her, too,” he said. “She was also very humble about receiving the award, she didn’t even let her district administration know that she’d received it and it is huge honor.”

“Education in the state is at tough spot and it’s important to show that we’re celebrating the excellent staff and faculty we have right now,” Pedersen said.

Some of the challenges Pederson mentioned include having a difficult time finding teachers and administrators.

“To see a school that was struggling and then rebound and be at this spot, it’s important that we praise that,” he said.

Stokes also mentioned some changes the school has seen. For example, when she first started there enrollment was at approximately 99. Now it is at 153. It was highest approximately three years ago at 176 when many of the Nikolaevsk students joined the school. Fifteen years ago several of the classes also had split grades and now all of the classes are single grade classrooms. The current number of staff is 23.

It’s also noteworthy that this is not the first time Stokes has been named Educator of the Year; this is her third time winning the award. “I was really excited to get it again this year,” she said.

“Like I said, we moved away from our family in Utah but Anchor Point has really become our family and the support that I get from families who attend Chapman and other staff is really neat thing to be a part of,” she said.

Dawson Slaughter, president of the Anchor Point Chamber of Commerce, also shared comments on the educator award. “We’re really lucky to be able to have her in our school; she’s a real asset to our community. A lot of the staff at the school really look up to her, she does a fantastic job. We’re very proud to have her in our community.”