Alaska

Jaimie Kassman

Position: Program Coordinator

School: Tundra Swan Academy

School District: Lower Kuskokwim School District

City, State: Bethel, Alaska

About the Nominee: Jaimie Kassman was nominated by a colleague, Jerry White. Mr. Kassman has been working with at risk boys at McCann Treatment Center and Tundra Swan Academy for roughly fifteen years. McCann Treatment Center (MTC) is a Residential Psychiatric Treatment Center (RPTC) located in Bethel, AK, which provides clinical psychiatric and substance abuse services for 14 Alaskan youth between the ages of 10 and 18. During his time at TSA, Mr. Kassman has taught hundreds of boys the skills they need to succeed as good men in remote western Alaska or wherever life takes them. Although he is not a teacher, Mr. Kassman possesses the knowledge and ability to be successful in the classroom at any grade level. His academic skills are put to the test almost daily as he visits classrooms and lends a hand where it's needed. He is a master at finding service learning opportunities for his students. The students volunteer thousands of hours to help the community, learning how to butcher meat, harvest and process fur, maintain conventional and hydroponic gardens, catch and process salmon, etc. Every service learning activity directly benefits the elders and less fortunate in the Bethel community and contributes to sustaining the TSA program. With a seemingly endless amount of energy, Mr. Kassman works long days and often works for weeks without taking a day off. His dedication to the boys and the program is obvious. The lessons he imparts make positive, life-long changes in his students.

[nominee_videos nominee_email="jaimie_kassman@ykhc.org"]

Sarah Trieff

Position: High School Generalist and Special Education Teacher

School: Tundra Swan Academy

School District: Lower Kuskokwim School District

City, State: Bethel, Alaska

About the Nominee: Sarah Trieff was nominated by a colleague, Jerry White. Mrs. Trieff has taught for more than two decades, mostly in facilities with at-risk youth. She has been with Tundra Swan Academy (TSA) for two years. TSA serves Lower Kuskokwim School District students at the McCann Treatment Center (MTC), a Residential Psychiatric Treatment Center (RPTC) located in Bethel, AK. MTC provides clinical psychiatric and substance abuse services for 14 Alaskan youth between the ages of 10 and 18.

After becoming the lead teacher at TSA, Mrs. Trieff aligned the curriculum to state standards, corrected all of the errors in students' records and got TSA accredited through the AdvanceED Accreditation Commission. She spends many hours with students who need extra tutoring, and she also assists the night staff when a student is in crisis. As a result, Mrs. Trieff has become one of the most trusted staff members in her facility. Many TSA students come to the program with academic abilities far below their age and grade level. Mrs. Trieff has the uncanny ability to help students become focused and motivated enough to learn two years' worth of lessons in a calendar year. While many teachers can be tough or tender, Mrs. Trieff has the ability to be as tough or as tender as she needs to be to meet the needs of each student. As one of two teachers in a school serving grades 5-12 in all subjects, Mrs. Trieff's wide range of knowledge and abilities is tested daily. If she doesn't know the answer, she researches and teaches herself so she can be useful to the program.

It's evident that Mrs. Trieff is a LifeChanger when you read letters and hear comments from prior students who are now productive adults. Their message is always the same: without Mrs. Trieff, they could not enjoy the happiness they now enjoy.

[nominee_videos nominee_email="sarah_trieff@lksd.org"]

Rafe Johnson

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.

Eric Pederson

Position: Principal

School: Paul Banks Elementary School

School District: Kenai Peninsula Borough School District

City, State: Homer, Alaska

About the Nominee: Eric Pederson is always involved with the students, teachers and staff. From directing traffic and escorting students into the school in the dark, cold mornings to playing ball at recess with the students and even dressing up like Darth Vader during lunchtime, he does it all on a shoe string budget!