Alaska sent a large delegation of competitors to the 2023 Educators Rising conference in Orlando, Florida last month. Among the students were medalists from the state competition held in February.
A delegation of five students from the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District attended the national competition. Those students were Autumn Jones from Homer High, Morgan Carlson-Kelly from Nikolaevsk, Lyndzi Gausin and Stephanie Huffer from Kenai Central and Caitlin Eskelin from Soldotna High.
At the national competition Carlson-Kelly placed 10th in the job interview competition, Stephanie Huffer placed fifth in K-3 children’s literature and Caitlin Eskelin placed fourth in lesson planning arts.
Kenai Peninsula educators Emmanuella Pokryfki and Winter Marshall-Allen work to recruit students and raise money for competitions and travel. Marshall-Allen said that funding is also available to the top participants in each event. The funding comes from the state chapter office, housed at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Educators Rising is a community-based, nation-wide organization that targets middle school, high school, and college-level students interested in the field of education. It supports teacher leaders in fostering leadership, community service, and a lifelong love of teaching and learning in their students. The University of Alaska website describes the program as an opportunity to practice necessary skills to lead a classroom and forum to provide student voices to state and national discussions around the general field of education.
Student participants also have the opportunity to compete in the state and federal conference to demonstrate their skills and awareness in topics such as job interviews, children’s literature, public speaking, ethical dilemmas and many other categories. When students participate, each part of their event is graded in a points system and that’s how the winner of each session is determined, according to Nikolaevsk student Morgan Carlson-Kelly.
In addition to supporting student success, Educators Rising understands the importance of educators who are embedded within the community they teach. Their “Grow Your Own Teacher” program emphasizes the importance of supporting local students in becoming educators in their hometowns. With statewide and national teacher and housing shortages, this program addresses a current crisis in education.
The KPBSD Educators Rising program is organized within the district’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) program. Participation in the program also provides high school juniors and seniors a dual JumpStart credit in the University of Alaska program. This means they receive a subsidized credit of tuition from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Carlson-Kelly said she was surprised when she earned a gold medal in the state junior varsity job interview competition in February. Her mother, Nikolaevsk teacher Billeen Carlson, encouraged her to participate in the activities led by Carlson-Kelly’s distance education Spanish teacher, Emmanuella Pokryfki.
“Mrs. Pokryfki has been a teacher-leader in the Education Rising for eight years,” Carlson said. “I hadn’t heard of the program until this year. When Mrs. P told me about it and asked me to encourage Morgan to compete, I looked into it and was extremely impressed.”
“Morgan was happy that she got to compete at state and nationals,” Carlson said. “You don’t have to want to be a teacher to compete in this program. It teaches you a bunch of real life skills that will help you no matter what you do.”
Morgan plans to participate in Educators Rising in the future with the support of her mother and other district teacher leaders.
Carlson-Kelly explained how she chose which event to compete in.
“I was on the fence about what I wanted to do,” she said. “At first I wanted to do a team project, but no one else in my school wanted to be in EdRising. The job interview was the most appealing as an independent competition,” she said.
Marshall-Allen facilitates the program at Homer High School. Autumn Jones was the Homer High School attendee at the state and federal event this year. She competed in “lesson plans” and “humanities.”
“Jones was also able to participate in the National Education Association’s Racial and Social Justice conference where she learned more about advocacy skills. I think she’s interested in going back next year,” Marshall-Allen said.
More information about the state program can be found at https://www.alaska.edu/educatorsrising/index.php.