Position: PE and Math Teacher, Archery and Wrestling Coach
School: Gladys Jung Elementary School
School District: Lower Kuskokwim School District
City, State: Bethel, Alaska
About the Nominee: Rafe Johnson was nominated by a colleague, Jerry White. In 2010, Mr. Johnson wrote several grant requests and was awarded money to start an archery program at Gladys Jung Elementary School. He coordinated with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s (ADF&G) Shooting Sports and Education Outreach Coordinator to receive training as a National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) instructor. That school year, Mr. Johnson started the first NASP team in LKSD and added archery to the PE curriculum. The program was such a success in its short first year that three students qualified to compete in the National NASP tournament in Louisville, KY. Led by Mr. Johnson, the Gladys Jung community raised enough money to take all three students and their chaperones to the tournament.
Since 2010, the archery program has continuously and rapidly grown throughout the district. Mr. Johnson became certified as a Basic Archery Instructor Trainer (BAIT) so he could train archery coaches in the district. Eleven of LKSD’s 26 eligible schools currently have an archery program, and Mr. Johnson trained and certified all of the instructors/coaches. Archery has an appeal to the people of the Yukon/Kuskokwim River Delta. Having it in the schools as a part of the P.E. curriculum makes it available to every student in grades 3-12. Having archery available after school makes it accessible to the community, which strengthens the community's bond with the district. This is possible because Mr. Johnson brought archery to LKSD.
This year, in a field of 25 schools representing 570 students, four LKSD schools were represented in the state archery tournament. Two LKSD Archers earned top honors in their division. Gareth R., of BRHS, was named the Alaska State Champion in the Boys High School division, and Ellis J., of GJE, was named the Alaska State Champion in the Boys Elementary division. In 2014, Mr. Johnson produced another state champion, Jordan W., who earned the Girls Elementary Championship title. On top of this, Mr. Johnson’s archery teams have won four state championships as a team in only six years!
This year, Mr. Johnson coached 112 students, all of whom competed in the state archery tournament! Mr. Johnson’s archery team is larger than the entire LKSD Robotics field. To add more perspective, if you combined this year’s junior high and high school speech teams with the entire district-wide science fair, you would still not match the size Mr. Johnson’s archery team.
Mr. Johnson is a LifeChanger because he brought archery to students and adults throughout the district, many of whom would never have had the opportunity to shoot a real bow and real arrows. Students whom otherwise do not care for sports, would not have a sport in which to compete.