Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

New teacher joins the ranks of Klukwan School

 

January 16, 2020

Ceri Godinez

Stefanie Sidney arrived this month from Whitehorse to join the teaching staff at Klukwan School.

Sidney, a Tlingit Native who prefers that her students and community call her by her Tlingit name, Sakinyâ, grew up in Teslin, a small community in the Yukon five hours north of Haines and spent her youth in Whitehorse. After graduating from the University of Regina in Saskatchewan's Yukon Native Teacher Education Program, Sidney spent the next 15 years working in education with a focus on hands-on learning and incorporating Tlingit culture and ways of thinking into the classroom. She is also a literacy specialist, with a background in special education and experiential education.

Sidney said she recognizes the importance of teaching about the perspective of Canada's First Nations as a way of addressing the long history of oppression indigenous people have faced.

"I want to teach about our culture and reach students, especially our First Nation students," she said. "There's a high rate of suicide and a high dropout rate."

After her first year and a half of teaching, Sidney nearly quit because of the toll it took on her. Ultimately, she's glad she stuck with it, she said. "It's so rewarding to see how powerful of an impact it often has on students' lives, for First Nations and non-First Nations students alike. Our culture, haa Kusteyeí, is what our world needs now, more than ever."

Sidney began teaching pre-school through third grade at Klukwan, 11 students total, on Wednesday, Jan. 8, the start of the new semester. She was hired in late September to fill a vacancy at the school, but it took until late December to get a green card and complete the teaching certification for Alaska.

"The community was very patient and supportive," she said.

Eric Hart, head teacher at Klukwan who started his job in the fall, spoke enthusiastically of Sidney. During the hiring process, "there was unanimous consensus that she sounded great, and so far, she's been great."

Sidney said she's particularly excited by the small class size at Klukwan. "I've always wanted to teach in a Tlingit community and teach the language," she said.

Joe Ordoñez, the father of Sapphire Ordoñez, a second-grade student at Klukwan, said his daughter is enjoying her classes with Sidney, especially those involving Tlingit culture and language. "She's coming home happy, so that's a good sign."

Sidney has traveled extensively as part of a Whitehorse-based traditional Tlingit dance group, Dakhká Khwaán, visiting countries including Taiwan and New Zealand and communities across Canada and the United States.

 
 

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