Point of View: Chris Etzwiler receives KPBSD Golden Apple Award

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education bestows Golden Apple Awards to district employees, volunteers and community organizations that go to extra lengths to support and advance education. Recipients are honored at a school board meeting with a proclamation and an engraved apple award.

Homer’s Chris Etzwiler of Homer received the award Monday, March 6 at KPBSD Board meeting.

As the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District continues to empower each and every student to experience a world-class educational path to prepare for a successful life, we recognize each journey is very unique and is often lined with compassionate, caring and impactful guides along the way.

These guides are like beacons who help our students find their paths of purpose and arrive in many different forms and function, some very obvious and some not so much. Their impacts are powerfully subtle and usually life changing.

The ability to recognize and express gratitude to these “beacons of light” are essential to ensure the energy of helping others is not only passed on to our students but easily shared to our society as a whole for a perpetual continuum.

And Chris Etzwiler is the epitome of what it means to selflessly and gracefully help those along the way and how fortunate that we all are that he has chosen a career in public education.

Originally from Montana, Chris has been an educator in rural Alaska since 1996, starting his journey with his wife, Krista, in the village of Koyuk, Alaska, as a teacher for the Koyuk Malamute Elementary School. He and his family moved to the village of Nuiqsut where he was a third grade teacher at the Trapper School from 1999 to 2001.

Inevitably and thankfully, they moved to Homer in 2001 where Chris continued to impact the lives of hundreds of students over the next 20-plus years.

In addition to his early commitment to be stay-at-home parent for his two in their younger years, Chris been involved in the following capacities: a Kenai Peninsula Borough School District substitute teacher, Paul Banks elementary school basketball coach, assistant coach for Homer High Mariner boys basketball team, assistant coach for Homer Middle School boys and girls basketball teams, T-ball coach and coordinator, Razdolna High and Junior math/science teacher, Homer High School interventionist, and most recently his role as the site coordinator for the Project GRAD Program.

His kind demeanor and thoughtfulness remained constant with everyone he has interacted with as he created so many important connections and relationships throughout the years.

Equally matched with his passion for teaching, Chris was instrumental with providing basketball opportunities for the local youth. In addition to volunteering at the City of Homer Community Recreation program to provide open gym for basketball, Chris started the Bruins Basketball program where hundreds of local kids participated in this program. The impact of this program were the foundations of success of many Homer High basketball student athletes including his two sons, Koby and Ty.

His youth basketball program was often credited for helping the Homer High Lady Mariners basketball team achieve a few years of high level success including competing for a state championship.

For 10 years he has worked tirelessly for Project GRAD, giving time, positive energy and creativity to our most rural schools while fostering student learning and engagement with his gentle spirit and dedication.

Chris embodies the selfless and empathetic character that we try to develop in our youth. Project GRAD Executive Director Jane Beck shares, “In all of my years of education, I have seen few who consistently show such immense gratitude for life, making sure that the lesser served students in our outlying communities also learn the importance of taking the time to identify those positive aspects and people in their own experience. He develops the confidence in our young people to be bold enough to articulate that gratitude with their parents, teachers, coaches, or other caring adult anchors. For some reason, we human beings can be quick to criticize, but less comfortable saying ‘thank you.’

“I’m not so sure why it is so hard for so many of us to let others know that they are important. The fact that Chris so easily expresses appreciation toward others has resulted in countless opportunities for our KPBSD students to self-reflect on their world, connect with those who bring them light, and work to build positive values and virtues.”

Ms. Beck further states, “I have been blessed to have him as an educational leader, mentoring others on our Project GRAD staff to create meaningful and fun hands-on learning opportunities. I have worked with him, observed him with our small communities of Russian Old Believer students, Native students, students living with trauma, and students struggling with academics or difficult home lives. He consistently demonstrates the empathy and kindness needed for connection and learning to occur.”

Without any doubt of many minds in the southern Kenai Peninsula area, Mr. Chris Etzwiler has truly made a difference for community, our schools and most importantly our students for years to come.