Alaska Needs More Alaska Native Teachers

Courtesy Sealaska Heritage Institute / The PITAAS program offers scholarships to students interested in becoming teachers. It was created in order to train more Alaska Native teachers.

Indian Country Today

University of Alaska Southeast offers scholarship to train more Alaska Native teachers.

In Alaska schools, Alaska Natives make up 25 percent of the student body, but less than 5 percent of the teaching force. PITAAS—Preparing Indigenous Teachers and Administrators for Alaska Schools—is a scholarship program offered at the University of Alaska Southeast which is designed to train more Alaska Native teachers and administrators in Alaskan schools.

“What inspired me to go and become a teacher was knowing that we had so many teachers that leave,” says Heather Dickens, a PITAAS student, in a video by the Sealaska Heritage Institute.

The program was created in 2000 with the help of a federal grant in order to address the shortage of Alaska Native teachers, and it has grown to include a number of services designed to train more teachers.

“The reason I wanted to get into education was so that I could be there for the kids that are feeling like they are on their way out,” said Jasper Nelson in a PITAAS video. He said he chose the program because it’s not a typical scholarship program. “They are with you 100 percent of the way. They give you an opportunity to succeed.

Students accepted into the program receive a scholarship that generally covers tuition, fees, books, and room and board at the University of Alaska Southeast for the full program period. Students must be enrolled at UAS, have a minimum 2.5 GPA upon entry and maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA to continue receiving the scholarship.

“The best part about being an educator for me is being a role model for others to see, and empowering our youth,” said Josh Jackson in a video, who earned his master’s through the PITAAS program. “It’s a very, very rewarding experience and a very rewarding job.”

To learn more about the program, hear more student stories, and apply, visit the UAS website.