Empowering future educators: KPBSD students shine at state leadership conference

Last year, I was introduced to the Educators Rising program through my daughter’s Spanish teacher, Emanuella Prokryfki. The program encourages seventh through 12th graders to explore the field of education through classes, club activities and competitions. Imagine my surprise when my freshman daughter, Morgan Carlson-Kelly, placed first in state and 10th at last summer’s national competition.

This year, Mrs. Prokryfki invited me to co-chaperone at Educators Rising State Leadership Conference in Juneau with this year’s state team. The conference was an opportunity for students to attend and even lead sessions on networking, innovation in education, lesson planning, and more. The keynote address was given by Alaska’s Teacher of the Year, Catherine Walker. Other notables included KPBSD’s own Dr. Christine Ermold and John Pothast, both of whom took time to meet with our students and encourage their involvement.

The conference, a convergence of over 165 students from 13 school districts and 30 schools across Alaska, was not just a gathering but a celebration of the passion, dedication and skill that these young individuals bring to the field of education. Having become an accidental presenter for a session that was booked in two different rooms, I was stunned by the sophistication and creativity of the students, asking on point questions and seeking, and providing, solutions to some of today’s problems in the field. The kids are gonna be OK.

One of the highlights of the conference was the opportunity for students to meet with Alaskan legislators at the Capitol. Sens. Jesse Bjorkman, Löki Tobin, Gary Stevens, and Reps. Justin Ruffridge, Will Stapp, and federal Rep. Mary Peltola took time from their demanding schedules to welcome and engage with the students. This interaction is a testament to the support and encouragement our young educators receive from our representatives.

Sen. Bjorkman’s invitation for the students to join the Senate Education Committee during a public hearing session is a remarkable example of how we can empower our youth by involving them directly in the legislative process. KPBSD’s team were engaged during public testimonies and full of follow-up questions after.

The KPBSD Educators Rising Chapter’s achievements at the conference are a source of immense pride. Caitlyn Eskelin, Morgan Carlson-Kelly, Sophia Micciche, Afton Roberts, Sophia Evans and Jeren Nash not only represented our district with professionalism but also secured top positions in several categories, showcasing their exceptional skills in lesson planning, delivery, and job interview techniques. Their success is a reflection of their hard work, dedication and the quality of mentorship and support they receive from KPBSD.

As these talented young individuals prepare to compete at the national level in Washington, D.C., this June, it’s important for us as a community to continue supporting and investing in programs like Educators Rising. These programs not only nurture the next generation of educators but also ensure the sustainability and advancement of quality education for years to come.

It has been a delight to watch my daughter, Morgan, transform from a cautious and reserved middle schooler into a poised and confident young woman, fully capable of pulling state senators into impromptu meetings and speaking her mind in front of lecture halls full of her peers. As Morgan likes to point out, Educators Rising isn’t just for students planning to go into education, it’s for students who are interested in leadership and education, as well. As a teacher and a parent, I would recommend that your middle and high school students seek to involve themselves in this program.

Billeen Carlson is a lifelong resident of the Kenai Peninsula, a parent and an educator with KPBSD’s distance education department.