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The Bering Strait School District believes in strong, sustained and aligned staff
The Bering Strait School District believes in strong, sustained and aligned staff
development. Check more about our staff development including descriptions of some
recent staff development activities by going to [[Staff_Development_and_Feedback| STAFF DEVELOPMENT]]<br>

Revision as of 17:26, 7 February 2012


Bering Strait School District

New Teacher Orientation Handbook

P.O. Box 225 Unalakleet, AK 99684 907-624-3611 907-624-3099 FAX

BSSD Website: BSSD Open Content Initiative: BSSD Online iCommunity:




Welcome to the Bering Strait School District! You are about to begin an adventure such as you have never encountered before. You will become immersed in another culture and in a part of the world unlike any you have ever known. The need for self-sufficiency will become evident. You will be called upon to assume responsibilities usually delegated to others in places where human resources are less limited. The experiential base of your professional life will be measurably broadened. You will be challenged professionally to utilize your skills, wits, and creative ideas to meet the educational challenges faced by you and your students. Through it all you will gain a sense of satisfaction for doing a job well done.


Save for extreme cases, most people simply mail everything they need up to their community. Unless you have contacted returning school staff and they have helped you make alternative arrangements, we recommend you mail your packages to the school in care of yourself. For example, if you worked at the school in Shishmaref, you would address everything to:

Your Name here

c/o Shishmaref School

General Delivery

Shishmaref, Alaska 99772

You can begin sending things up as soon as you are hired and continue to do so during the summer as there are school staff picking up mail all during the summer break. In most cases your boxes will be stored at the school until your arrival, but staff may actually store them in your housing unit. Most villages offer mail service at the USPS office 5-6 days a week. In general the address format listed above will be enough to get your packages safely to school. If you would like to contact your site or desire a more specific mailing address, please consult the BSSD Address & Phone Number Directory found at the end of this document.


You definitely want to be aware of the fact that it can take 2-3 weeks for boxes mailed parcel post from the lower-48 to arrive in our communities (even longer for Diomede).

You can certainly mail things priority mail, but you pay a premium for that – better to get organized and mail things early. As for the weight of your packages, there are two schools of thought. The first being that the fewer boxes the better. There is some mathematical reasoning to back this up as well, since it is cheaper to send one 40- pound box than two 20-pound boxes. Mind you, as long as it meets overall dimension criteria, the USPS will accept packages up to 70 pounds. The other school of thought is that it is likely a lot easier to get your package to the post office you are mailing it from than it will be for you to get it home in the village.

Another consideration is that the heavier the box, the more awkward it is to handle and the more opportunities it will get dropped somewhere along the way (a LOT of people will handle your box from the time it leaves your community until it arrives in Savoonga, Wales or St. Michael). Folks in this camp shoot for boxes between 35-45 pounds knowing that they ultimately have to haul them all once they get to their village. Tape is cheap, much cheaper than replacing items that get lost when boxes explode for one reason or another. You also want to label your boxes clearly.

The new USPS rates went into effect on May 14, 2007, so you may want to check things out at the USPS website before you start mailing boxes. The size and shape of your boxes/containers now matters and some folks who mailed items out of Unalakleet recently got hit with some surchages for the size of their containers (like Rubbermaid tubs).


While several carriers come to Alaska, most of our staff soon begin flying with Alaska Airlines and their travel partners to build up frequent flyer miles. You can contact Alaska Airlines at 800-426-0333 or on the web at: Once you get to Anchorage, staff who live in the southern part of the district (Stebbins, St. Michael, Unalakleet and Shaktoolik) tend to fly into Unalakleet via Hageland Aviation (1-866-239- 0119, (907) 245-0139) or Peninsula Airways (800-448-4226), while those who live in the rest of the communities normally fly to Nome via Alaska Airlines. Once you are in either Unalakleet or Nome, you will need to utilize one of our local carriers to get to your community. You always want to personally verify your flights to Nome, Unalakleet and the village. Flight schedules change and it is your responsibility to keep track of this information. It is always a good idea to make your reservation through the Nome or Unalakleet office of all carriers. Local carriers are: Bering Air - services all 15 communities in our district
800-478-5422 (Nome)
907-443-5464 (Nome)
Frontier Flying Service – services all communities, including conecting flights to and from Anchorage and Fairbanks. except Stebbins, St. Michael, Unalakleet and Shaktoolik 800-478-6779 (Main Office)
800-478-5125 (Nome)
907-443-2414 (Nome)
Hageland Aviation – services all 15 communities in our district and offers direct flights between Anchorage and Unalakleet and St. Michael. 907-443-7595 (Nome)
907-624-3595 (Unalakleet)
Spring 2008 - Hageland Aviation and Frontier Flying Service have merged. For the time being, the numbers above are all still in service, but that will likely be changing as they consolidate facilities and services. To book flights with either through the Nome office, use the Frontier toll-free reservation number (800-478-5125). Depending on the community and the flight, you may be on a plane which seats anywhere from 5 – 19 passengers.

Planes may be single or twin-engine and some are turbine powered. You definitely want to be aware of baggage restrictions. Alaska Airlines and PenAir allow you to check two pieces which may not exceed 50 pounds each, while most of our regional carriers allow you to check 50 pounds total. At the current time, Hageland allows you 150 pounds of baggage on their flights form Anchorage to Unalakleet and St. Michael. Anything above and beyond that is considered excess baggage and you will have to pay between 60-90 cents per pound to take that baggage to your village.

You obviously want to carefully consider what you are taking on the plane with you. Though you are certain to get sick of hearing it, all our travel is weather permitting. Flights can be canceled for a variety of reason in any season: icing, fog, whiteout, mechanical, etc. There is no use getting upset because it will not make a difference. The pilots who fly in our region are very competent professionals. When they say they are not going to fly due to weather or that they are holding for weather to improve, just accept their decision.

Most returning staff leave themselves an extra day when traveling in or out just in case delays occur. PLEASE NOTE: This airline information was put together in February, 2008, so it is likely that some changes may have occurred by the time you read this. Please verify any and all info as you are making your plans and reservations.


(Cars, Trucks, ATVs and Snowmobiles) As stated earlier, access to our communities from Anchorage or Fairbanks is aircraft only. There are some vehicles in most communities, but with the exception of Teller (connected to Nome by a road that is accessible about half of the year) and Unalakleet (a road that runs out of town for some 14 miles), it is not practical for you to bring that a car or truck to any of our communities. For anyone going to Unalakleet or Teller that might be thinking of taking out a vehicle – remember that the vehicle must be flown from Anchorage – it is awfully expensive. Most teachers who wish to have a vehicle opt for either an All-terrain vehicle (alternately, ATV or Honda – sometimes even if it is a Yamaha or a Suzuki) or a snowmobile (only called that back home – up here they are snowmachines or snowgos).

Alaska Cycle Center
They sell Honda and Suzuki ATVs.
Currently at 118 E.5th Avenue downtown (907-279-9478) and also at 7780 Old Seward Highway (907-522-9478), but moving soon to the corner of International Airport Road and Old Seward.
Alaska Mining & Diving
They sell Bombardier ATVs and Ski-Doo snowmachines.
3222 Commercial Drive
Anchorage, AK 99501
Anchorage Suzuki & Arctic Cat
They sell Suzuki ATVs and Arctic Cat snowmachines and ATVs.
3054 Commercial Dr.
Anchorage AK 99501
Phone: 907-272-2412
Anchorage Yamaha
They sell Yamaha ATVs and snowmachines.
3919 Spenard Rd.
Anchorage AK 99517
Phone: 907-243-8343
Fax: 907-243-0079
Marita Sea & Ski / Alaska Power Sports
They sell Polaris ATVs and snowmachines.
1340 Rudakof Circle
Anchorage, AK 99508
Phone: (907) 349-4512
Fax: (907) 349-4522

Like anything else you are buying for your new home, you will want to talk to people from that community before making any major purchase like an ATV or a snowmachine. You can benefit greatly from their experience and avoid major mistakes (like having the only Bombardier in a village full of Hondas – egad!). Seriously though, knowing that any other people in your community have similar machines means others to talk with when you have breakdowns or other problems.

Many of our staff own vehicles that they store in Anchorage. Then they are there ready to explore during summer break or to drive down the Alcan Highway, or even if they get into town for a few days to take in the town and do some marathon shopping (just keep boxes, labels and tape right in the rig). There are several places to store vehicles in Anchorage. One place that some employees use is:

Airport Road Car Storage
737 E. International Airport Road
Anchorage, AK 99518


Many of our returning staff schedule a couple of days in Anchorage on the way back to the village to shop and mail some foodstuffs, paper products and other supplies. If you are coming up in July or August, be prepared, as this is when hotel are at their busiest and rates are at their highest. Call well in advance for reservations, for Anchorage hotels are quite busy during tourist season. Returning staff will be happy to share their recommendations for the best place to stay, but here is a starter set of hotels that have courtesy vans to and from the airport and their summer rates:

Motel 6
5000 A Street Anchorage, AK 99503 Phone: (907) 677-8000 Fax: (907) 677-8640 24 Hour Airport Shuttle • Rates:119.00 plus 8% Bed Tax
Best Western Barratt Inn
4616 Spenard Road Anchorage, AK 99517-3299 Toll Free Phone \#1-800-478-7550 24 Hour Airport Shuttle • Rates: 112.50 plus tax
Microtel Inn & Suites
5205 Northwood Drive Anchorage, AK 99517 Toll-Free: (888) 680-4500 Tel: (907) 245- 5002 Fax: (907) 245-5030 Email: or 24 Hour Airport Shuttle Rates: 119.00 plus tax
Long House Alaskan Hotel
4335 Wisconsin Anchorage, AK 99517-2804 Phone \# 907-243-2133 24 Hour Airport Shuttle • Rates: 109.00 to 189.00 Accepts pets
Inlet Tower Hotel & Suites
1200 L Street - Anchorage, Alaska 99501 Toll Free: 800-544-0786 907-276-0110 FAX: 907-258-4914 24 Hour Airport Shuttle • Rates: 189.00 plus tax
Extended Stay Suites
700 East 34th Ave Anchorage, AK 99503 (907)646-4208 Good rates if you stay at least 4 nights.
Check here for pet-friendly hotels – call ahead to see if they charge any fees and be forewarned that not all of these places have airport shuttles:

You should be able to find some less expensive accommodations if you go online and check out bed and breakfast options in the Anchorage areas (and there are dozens).

Virtually every rental car company is represented at a counter at the airport in Anchorage and you can use the national numbers to make reservations.

Anchorage has the normal compliment of stores you would expect in a community of over a quarter million. You can find Sam’s Club, Costco, Walmart and a multitude of other stores from food to hardware to hobbies. Bring along some pre-made labels and then purchase yourself a tape gun and packing tape.

You can purchase boxes from the U-Haul on Old Seward, at many of the Carr’s grocery store locations or any shipping company. Most of our employees utilize the Post Office out by the airport. As you are driving toward the airport (west) on International Airport Road, you begin slowing as you approach the airport proper and come to a stoplight with a cross road which goes to the right (north) called Post Office drive. This Post Office is the rural resident’s best friend. It is open from 6:00 a.m. to midnight, 365 days a year. If you have more than 10 boxes, you can go around the side as long as it is during normal business hours, otherwise you will have to take all your boxes inside and wait in line (and since we all know about this, don’t be surprised if you find a line at 11:00 pm on a Tuesday night).


Every community in our district has at least one grocery or multipurpose store and many have more than one. Keep in mind that everything has to be flown in and this will affect both availability and price. Prices in your community stores are at least 50-75% above what you might pay in your hometown.

Most of the stores work hard to keep produce and dairy items in stock, but these are popular items and they tend to go fast.

Meat prices are also very high and the selection generally limited. In general, the individuals responsible for maintaining the stores in each of the communities are very accommodating and will order items they do not generally stock if you ask them. While many people in our communities do shopping in Anchorage and order things through the mail, we still recommend that you do some of your grocery shopping through the local stores, if for no other reason than it gives you more exposure to the community. It is good public relations for you to support local businesses to some degree and it gives you opportunities to meet more people in a setting other than the school.

Both Hanson’s (907-443-5454) and the Nome AC (907-443-2243) in Nome will help you set up accounts and will ship your groceries to you via one of the local air carriers.

Recognize that all their stock is also flown in. Their prices may be a bit lower than what you will see in your community stores, but they should have a bit more available.

You can also set up accounts with Sam’s Club in Anchorage or Span Alaska Sales in Washington state. Both allow you to shop via the mail, fax, or internet and they box and mail your purchases. Fred Meyer now also has a webstore. They are fast and efficient and charge the same prices they do on the floor of their stores in Anchorage. They charge actual postage and a 10% handling fee that is very reasonable given how well they pack things and how quickly they get things out the door. In Unalakleet I normally receive my order within 3-5 days. They do a great job packing things up and it is very rare that anything is damaged in transit.

You will likely want to wait until you get to your community to order from either of these suppliers. It is likely there will be catalogs or flyers available around the school and it is quite normal for staff to get together in the early fall and make large (often ordering items by the case) orders from these places to share. There are also at least two Anchorage sources that our staff use for meat orders:

Mr. Prime Beef
7521 Old Seward Hwy, Anchorage, 99518 - (907) 344-4066
Wayne’s Meat Market
1021 W Northern Lights Blvd, Anchorage, 99503 - (907) 561- 5135
Many staff also schedule an extra day or two in Anchorage and hit the stores.

Contact members of the staff you are joining or post something on our New Teacher Forum to see if anyone will be going through Anchorage when you are and wants to share a rental car or van and do some shopping and shipping.


The Bering Strait School District, in northwest Alaska, serves fifteen isolated villages on the Seward Peninsula, on the eastern end of Norton Sound and on two islands in the Bering Sea. Current enrollment is approximately 1800 students and is almost 100% Alaskan Native Inupiat, Yu’pik or Siberian Yu’pik Eskimo. Although the number of students served is relatively small, the area served covers approximately 80,000 square miles. Most of the schools are accessible only by small bush aircraft.

The District Office for the Bering Strait School District (BSSD) is located in Unalakleet. The District operates K-12 programs in Brevig Mission, Diomede, Elim, Gambell, Golovin, Koyuk, St. Michael, Savoonga, Shaktoolik, Shishmaref, Stebbins, Teller, Unalakleet, Wales and White Mountain and a Pre-K through 12 program in Unalakleet. We work with educational partners on Head Start programs in the other 14 villages. These communities range in size from a population of 150 up to a population of nearly 900. The student population in the schools ranges from just over 39 to 220 students.

The professional staff at each school varies from seven to twenty-one, including the principal. Village support staff includes Locally Recognized Experts, cooks, custodians, secretaries, community education coordinators, and educational aides for a variety of programs. Total staff numbers range from 14 to well over forty. Our District is governed by a Regional Board of Education. The Board is made up of 11 members which represent all communities in the District. The School Board has the responsibility of setting district goals, developing policies, approving school programs, hiring staff and conducting evaluations of the Superintendent. Each school has an Advisory Education Committee (AEC). These elected committees function under the direction of the School Board. Their role is advisory except in areas specified by the School Board. The AECs are to develop an effective working relationship with the school and, through their actions, represent the interests of the community.


Perhaps the best thing you can do when you come to one of our communities is to remember that you are moving into a small town which is probably quite a bit unlike any you have known in your life. It is your responsibility to learn how to fit into the community. Do not be quick to pass judgment on things which are unfamiliar or which you do not understand. This actually transcends cultural boundaries – this is just a good sense anytime you are moving into a small town. Take the time to learn about your community and its residents. While you are going to be very busy those first few months, take the time to get out and walk around, go to the post office, store and other public areas in town. Meet people and start to get to know more about them as they begin to know more about you. While your role in town is largely defined by your job, it is important for you to develop relationships that go beyond the walls of the school or your housing unit. Considering taking the time to volunteer to host small "get-togethers" like crafting nights or movie nights. There are as many opportunities for recreation as there are people out here and of course they vary greatly from community to community. Each and every community will offer options in which you can participate, though the ability to be comfortable entertaining yourself is a great mid-winter attribute. Among our communities you will find those who enjoy: hunting, reading, hiking, sewing, fishing, listening to and making music, cards, photography, painting, skiing, running, watching movies and virtually any other normal pastime. In many of our communities there are rules, regulations and possibly fees for nonresidents who wish to use the land for recreational purposes. Just like anywhere else, there are also local practices and mores, some clearly communicated, others not. In addition to visiting about this with returning staff members, it is strongly recommended that you contact the local Native Corporation or IRA in person regarding this once you arrive in your community.

Opportunities for staff members to hunt and fish vary greatly from one community to another. You should be aware that Alaska requires 12 months of residency to qualify for a resident license and that non-resident licenses are much more expensive. If you are interested in participating in fishing and hunting you should:

• Check out your options with returning staff members to your school and local governmental offices.

• Check with airlines regarding the transport of weapons.

• Check on the availability of licenses (these are generally always available in Anchorage, Nome and Unalakleet and online at the Alaska Department of Fish & Game website as well).


The Inupiat, Central Yu’pik, and St. Lawrence Island Yu’pik people have occupied this area for centuries, this in spite of one of the harshest climates in the world. The culture is rich and varied and, despite reports to the contrary, still very much in effect. It has certainly changed, but you would be mistaken if you thought that your village was simply a rural Alaskan community as opposed to an Inupiat, Central Yu’pik or St. Lawrence Island Yu’pik village. You are not expected to abandon your values and assimilate those of the community, but to be open to learning about the values of the community and reflect upon how they impact your job as a teacher.

While almost all our students begin school speaking English, Inupiaq and Yu’pik is still widely used in many of our communities. Most of the people who are in their late 40’s or older grew up speaking Yu’pik or Inupiaq. These languages may still the primary language for many of the elders in your community, and, though they may speak to you in English, they are thinking in their first language and translating into English for your benefit. There are many local colloquialisms that may prove puzzling initially, but you will quickly become accustomed to this. These speech patterns are possibly the result of a literal translation of Yu’pik or Inupiaq to English: languages that do not mesh neatly. It is not a mission in our district to eradicate these speech patterns, for they are valid and accepted forms of communication. We do, however, use specific lessons to point out the importance of being able to communicate at a variety of levels and in a variety of situations. It may be helpful to pick up or look through a book or two on English as a Second Language in order to prepare yourself.

It may take you a while to become accustomed to the communication patterns in your community. Nonverbal communication is very important. As a sign of deference, in some villages students may not look you in the eye while addressing you. You may find children in your classroom raising their eyebrows and scrunching up their noses at you from your first day. They are not making faces at you, they are just answering yes or no (raised eyebrows for yes, scrunched up noses for no). Some people say that you will know that you are truly feeling comfortable in this environment when you find yourself unconsciously answering in the same manner. In general, the people in this region communicate in a much more relaxed manner than people from the lower 48. They are comfortable with silence and do not generally feel the need to fill conversational gaps. They also seek to avoid losing their temper. If you find yourself in a potential confrontation remember to stay calm and focus on the crux of the issue. Outspokenness is not necessarily an admired character trait. Be cautious expressing strong opinions, especially regarding the community or the people, until you have had a chance to acclimate yourself and have gotten to know people. The most important communication tool you have at your disposal during your first few months is your ability to listen.


Unless you have made other arrangements, all teacher housing is either owned or leased by the district and then leased back to staff at a subsidized rate which includes utilities. There are some villages where you can find homes to rent that are not run by the district. Shishmaref is the only community left in our district in which teacher housing does not include full plumbing (mind you, when we get winter storms with wind chill temperatures well below –50, it takes a lot of work to keep plumbing working sometimes…). All district housing has basic furnishings (beds, chairs, other furniture and major appliances). Housing units have limited freezer space and may share laundry facilities. It is your responsibility to provide your personal furnishing items like bedding, curtains, shower curtains, dishes, towels, small appliances, etc. It is a good idea to contact your principal or a returning staff member to try to determine what your residence is like and to find out exactly what you need to bring up with you.


All communities receive some television broadcasting.

There are three main radio stations in the region: KICY & KNOM out of Nome and KNSA out of Unalakleet.

Depending on your location, setup and atmospheric conditions, you may get other stations as well.

While you cannot access the school computer network from home, internet service is available in every one of our communities. Pricing for this service is as follows: $24.99 for 56 kB $49.99 for 256 kB $99.99 for 256 kB up to 5 simultaneous connections $299.99 for equipment(split out over 6 months) and a $99.99 activation fee. Go here for additional information

Returning staff members will be able to point you toward the number you need to call in order to establish phone service. Most carriers want some form of deposit in order to activate an account. Long distance service is expensive, so we recommend purchasing a rechargeable calling card on your way up.


Most of the communities serviced by the Bering Strait School District are "dry" by local option. This means alcohol may not legally be bought, sold or imported (brought or sent into the community). Nome is the only "wet" community in the region, which means that adults may legally purchase alcohol from commercial sources. Unalakleet, White Mountain and Teller are the only "damp" communities in the region, which means that alcohol can be legally imported in limited quantities from recognized sources. Local airlines reserve the right to search any and all baggage they carry. Failure to follow local, State and Federal rules and regulations regarding alcohol in the villages puts both your employment and your certificate at risk.


Professional attire is likely to be less formal than what you may be used it, but it also varies from one school to another. It is recommended that you visit with your principal or a returning staff member to find out what is appropriate at your school.

In fall and spring it can be wet and in many of our communities this can mean a good deal of mud, so you will want some rubber boots and raingear. Rain boots are easy to find in Anchorage, or you can buy them at home and bring them. Inexpensive "break up" boots cost between $15 and $30. The excellent "ExtraTuff" brand made out of neoprene style rubber are very, very comfortable, but cost nearly $100 by the time you have them shipped out.

If you are bringing along any clothes that require dry cleaning - which is not recommended - you will want to mail up some of the home dry cleaning kits.

It is very difficult for anyone else to describe the clothing required to make it comfortably through the winter up here. It obviously depends on how much time you wish to spend outdoors. The best advice I have ever heard was to bring the warmest clothes you have and then look at what everyone else has.

People up here will help you figure out what you need and where you can place an order. The Alaska Teacher Placement website also has some good recommendations on winter clothing

Once the sun starts coming back in the spring and reflecting off all the snow and ice, one thing you are going to want is a pair of polarized sunglasses, for the glare can get quite intense.


Pets are nice to have and you may find it difficult to not bring a current pet with you. Please pay attention to the pet clause of your district housing agreement. You are required to pay $20 a month for each pet you have on district property (up to a maximum of 3 pets). This money does stay in an account for your school, to be used to purchase additional furnishings above and beyond that which the district furnishes and to repair any pet damage. Please check carefully with your principal though, as some of our housing units specifically forbid pets. Should you bring a pet with you, there are a few things of which you need to be aware. When outside, dogs should be on a leash or tied up. In most of our communities, loose dogs may be put down. Dogs and cats need to be transported in carriers and the local air carriers will charge you for hauling pets and you definitely want to let them know you are bringing a pet when you make your reservation. You will also need documentation that your pets are current on all vaccinations. There are veterinary services available in Nome.


Each and every community has health clinic that is staffed by health aides who receive initial and ongoing training through the regional hospital in Nome. These clinics also have 24-hour access to the medical staff in Nome and have limited pharmacies for basic needs. Several of the clinics are staffed by Physician’s Assistants. There is a regional hospital in Nome and a sub-regional clinic in Unalakleet. Severe cases are medevaced to Anchorage. There is dental care available in both Nome and Unalakleet. If you take medication on a regular basis, you will want to contact our Business Office so they might refer you to a pharmacy that services our region.

Flights are expensive and schedules very busy when you first arrive, so you want to make certain you have your pre-employment physical completed before you come up.


Fall is generally fairly mild, with a good deal of rain and wind. At the beginning of the school year you will have a great deal of daylight. Depending on how early you arrive, it might not actually reach full darkness, instead hovering at something similar to deep dusk for a few hours. Temperatures can get low enough that you might even see some snowflakes toward the end of September, but this will quickly melt. Sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving, things will begin to freeze, the snow will start to stick and the snowmachines replace the ATVs. This is the beginning of a long winter. We lose between five to seven minutes of daylight each day. In the middle of winter you will come to school in the dark and go home in the dark. We get a few hours of weak sunlight during the middle of the day that offers virtually no warmth. Winter brings very low temperatures; it is not uncommon to see -30°F or even -40°F several times during winter. The wind blows during winter as well, and wind chill temperatures may reach - 60°F or lower several times during the winter. You need to be prepared to be out in these conditions long enough to get to school. If you choose not to buy a Honda or snow machine, it means that you will be having to walk to school in this weather. In some villages, this can be a fairly short distance, if the teacher housing is located near the school. However, in villages where the distance between the housing and the school is greater, you will obviously have to spend a longer time outside, trudging through the snow and ice, to get to the school. The importance of warm winter gear cannot be stressed enough. A warm parka, snow pants, hat, scarf, gloves, snow boots, and ice cleats will become necessary items in your wardrobe.

You will need to remember that, as is the case with many factors of living in Bush Alaska, all travel is done at the mercy of the weather, which means that there is a small chance that you won't always make it to Anchorage in time to make connections, if you plan on flying to the Lower 48 for the holiday break. Likewise, if you do travel somewhere, be prepared to have your stay extended, if the weather is not cooperating for your return back to the village. Days can go by without planes coming in to deliver mail or shipments for the local store.

After the winter solstice we gain daylight at the same rate we lost it in the fall. By March temperatures are climbing and you will marvel at how warm 0°F feels after you have survived the winter. Spring can bring gorgeous days filled with sunshine and gentle breezes, but it also brings fog and the occasional blizzard. There are multiple websites you can find through Google which provide up-to-the-minute weather information for most of our region. The district website has a weather page that also contains multiple links a nd resources related to regional weather.



The Bering Strait School District participates in the State of Alaska’s testing program, and administers the High School Graduation Qualifying Exam in the fall and spring and the Standard-Based Assessments to grades 3-10. Additionally, we administer the TerraNova to grades 1, 2, 5 and 7 in the spring.


The role of Educational Technology role in BSSD involves a wide range of duties supporting the delivery of instruction, staff development efforts, data management, and technology infrastructure design and maintenance.
The EdTech staff is technically part of the Curriculum and Instruction Department, but work with all program managers and coordinators in the District. In addition, they work with Tech Liaisons at each school to manage educational technology purchases, troubleshooting and repairs.
Responses to your help desk requests will be processed by staff periodically throughout the day. They do our best to keep you informed of our progress on your issue.


Every school in the District has its own library, but there is also a District Media Center that serves all 15 schools. The Media Center can provide the necessary materials for teaching across the subjects and levels and through interlibrary loan can get you any materials you may need. The Media Center also has over 400 teacher resource tubs categorized by subject.


NACTEC is the Northwestern Alaska Career & Technical Center and is located in Nome. NACTEC is a cooperative venture between the Bering Strait School District and the Nome City School District. Students from across our district can attend NACTEC’s two-week residential vocational programs to augment their education.
The goal of NACTEC is to help students apply what they have learned in their community school to real life through hands-on and simulated experiences at NACTEC. Through this process, they assist students in a successful transition into life beyond high school. A variety of career choices and secondary education options are explored through job shadows and local college campus visits.
Students practice employability skills, such as interviewing, resume writing, job/school application completion, job shadowing, and social skills. Simulated independent living activities engage students in money management, cooking, comparison shopping, laundry, survival swimming, and first aid. Students also participate in engine repair, building construction, and welding courses.
Through this experience students increase their marketability with the acquisition of career, personal, service, social and life skills that support their autonomy, dependability and confidence.


The Solutions program begins with the establishment of a Solutions Network. This network consists of a core group of school leaders, teachers, parents and or support staff who commit to meeting throughout the school year to discuss, monitor, and plan strategies to improve the academic achievement of all students. The Solutions Network assesses and analyzes factors standing in the way of student achievement and then plans and implements appropriate, customized intervention strategies.
The Solutions Network is the overriding structure that established a sense of connection, accountability, and commitment throughout the school community. It is the main body that oversees how Solutions program strategies are designed, applied and monitored through the school. Under the umbrella organization of the Solutions Network are five subgroups; each subgroup addresses a different component of intervention.
Dividing interventions into smaller chunks ensures that the intervention strategies are targeted in a specific, systematic way to achieve maximum results. Check the following link for more information regarding our Solution Team program:


The Bering Strait School District offers a continuum of services to children ages 3 through 21 with disabilities the opportunity to access free, appropriate, public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment, as specified by Alaska and federal statutes.
These statutes apply to every eligible disabled child, regardless of the severity of the disability. Special education is described as: "specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of individuals with exceptional needs"
Special Education is intended to ensure that children with disabilities have access to the general education curriculum and profit from the educational standards that apply to all children.


The Bering Strait School District believes in strong, sustained and aligned staff development.


The District offers a varied extracurricular activity program for all students. We offer both academic (Academic Decathalon, Battle of the Books, Spelling Bee and Science Fair) and athletic (cross-country running and skiing, biathlon, volleyball, wrestling, basketball and Native Youth Olympics) activities.


The BSSD Reading Standards are aligned with and taught using the Success for All Reading program. Success for All (SFA) is a comprehensive reading approach designed to ensure that every child will read at grade level or above. The program emphasizes prevention and early intervention to respond to and solve any child’s learning problems. SFA is an approved model in accordance with the “No Child Left Behind” legislation. Success for All includes:

  • Research-based curriculum materials
  • Extensive professional development in proven instructional strategies
  • Assessment and data-monitoring tools
  • Classroom management techniques
  • One-to-one tutoring for struggling students
  • On-going family involvement and community support

The Success for All reading program is based on extensive research into the ways children learn to read and write. At the heart of the program is 90 minutes of uninterrupted, daily reading instruction. Beginning in the first grade, children are grouped across classes by reading level. Regrouping gives each teacher the opportunity to work intensively with students, one reading level at a time.
The KinderCorner and Roots programs for BSSD Levels 1-3, emphasize the development of language skills and launches students into reading using phonetically regular storybooks supported by careful instruction that focuses on phonemic awareness, auditory discrimination, and sound blending as well as meaning, context, and self-monitoring strategies. Students become fluent as they read and reread to one another in pairs.
In the Wings and Reading Edge programs for BSSD Levels 4-8, students use school or district selected reading materials, basals, and/or trade books in a carefully structured set of interactive opportunities to read, discuss, and write. This program emphasizes cooperative learning activities built around partner reading, identification of characters, settings, and problem solutions in narratives, story summarization, writing, and direct instruction in reading comprehension skills.
At all levels, students read books for twenty minutes each evening as homework. Classroom libraries of books are developed for this purpose.
Eight-Week AssessmentEight-Week Assessment
Students in BSSD Levels 3-8 are formally assessed every eight weeks using the Scholastic Reading Inventory (SRI) or Roots Assessment, in order to determine and document progress in reading. This information is used to assign students to tutoring, to suggest alternative teaching strategies in the regular classroom, to make changes in reading group placement, identify needed Solution Team referrals, or selecting Hot List students. The school facilitator coordinates this formalized assessment process with the active involvement of administration and teachers.
Tutoring<br> In SFA Reading, one-to-one tutoring is provided for struggling students. One of the most effective educational interventions, tutoring is designed to parallel and reinforce classroom-reading instruction for these children. Trained staff, works one-on-one with any students who are not making adequate progress in reading. Tutoring for the younger students is provided through Alphie’s Alley, a computer based, individualized program, while the older students get support in the current book and skill they are working on in class. Tutoring occurs daily for 20 minutes. BSSD Level 3 students have priority for tutoring.
Cooperative Learning
Cooperative learning embedded throughout the program focuses on individual student accountability, common goals, and recognition of group success. Providing the opportunity to work with peers enables students to master basic reading skills as they continue to grow as thoughtful learners. Emphasis is placed on individual accountability, common goals, and recognition of group success.
Solution Team
Every school establishes a Solutions Team that links students, families, educators, and community resources together. Their combined forces and relentless focus support children’s academic achievement.
Facilitator<br> A full-time, certified teacher is designated by the principal to help the faculty and staff implement the program. Working with the SFA lead trainer, the facilitator organizes all staff development, monitors data from each quarterly assessment, and provides support and coaching to all teachers.
Getting Along Together
The Getting Along Together program is a social problem-solving curriculum designed to teach children to think critically, solve problems non-violently, and work in teams effectively and cooperatively. The Getting Along Together program sets in place schoolwide processes for preventing and resolving problems among students as well as between students and teachers.
Professional Development
Success for All is not another box of books. With at least 10 professional development days in the first year alone, Success for All teachers, facilitators, and leaders receive intensive support to make certain implementation of the Success for All reading program is successful.


You can find information about all the communities served by our school district at a website maintained by Kawerak the non-profit corporation organized by the Bering Straits Native Corporation to provide services throughout the Bering Straits region. They have allowed us to include the information they have put together and we appreciate their cooperation in that regard. If you go to their website and visit the Tribal Home Pages link you will find photos of the various communities.


The Teaching in Alaska section of the Alaska Teacher Placement website

Online materials about Alaska Native history, education, languages, and cultures

The Alaska Native Knowledge Network. Resources for compiling and exchanging information related to Alaska Native knowledge systems and ways of knowing

The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development (DEED)

The Alaska Teacher Certification Office

The Bering Strait School District’s BSSDWiki, or Open Content Initiative

The OpenContent Initiative is an effort to develop a comprehensive standards-based curriculum, and a set of supporting content resources. This system utilizes "wiki" technology which allows everyone to read, edit, and participate directly in an innovative education community. It has now expanded greatly in scope, containing interactive projects, staff development, site and district processes and procedures, etc.

This provides an abstract of and links to all active BSSD blogs

The website of the Bering Strait School District

The Bering Strait School District’s interactive iCommunity

The Alaska article in Wikipedia

In addition to excellent information about all 15 communities served by our district, the Kawerak site has a great deal of additional information about our region


Welcome to the Bering Strait District Office. This page will not only organize the roles of the various administrators in the district office, but will provide links to all of the program outlines and processes.

Please let us know if there are questions/concerns that are not addressed on this page.

District Office Staff


Please Note: The following was written for inclusion in a staff handbook for Shishmaref School nearly 15 years ago. Shishmaref remains the only site where district-leased teacher housing is not fully plumbed. However, from time to time, freezeups and water supplies problems, while certainly not frequent, do occur. With that in mind, this is shared for instructional reasons.

Honeybucket is one of the more dishonest euphemisms you are likely to come into contact with. Honeybuckets are found in all houses that do not have flush toilets. Honeybuckets are basically indoor outhouses that you have to empty.

The basic honeybucket configuration is a wooden box with a hinged lid and a toilet seat on top. Inside the box is a five-gallon bucket. The bucket is lined with garbage bags. Many will argue the cost efficiency of one bag or two, or kitchen bags versus those designed to stand up to three hundred pounds of concrete, but you will form your own opinion on the matter. Considering the contents, most people prefer to err on the side of caution.

The best technique for installing liners is to tie a knot in both corners of the garbage bags. This helps them conform more easily to the shape of the bucket and also reduces the likelihood of the bag ripping when being removed from the bucket.

Some people prefer to empty their honeybucket when it is only half full and others flirt with danger and attempt to discover the maximum holding capacity. Before the snow builds up on the island, the City of Shishmaref provides a honeybucket disposal service.

You call the City Office and they tell you the location of your closest holding bin. You simply dump your bucket in the bin, write the city a check for ten dollars a month, and they take care of emptying the holding tanks. It is an entirely different story once the snow makes use of the city's trailer impossible.

For the rest of the year you take the bag and dump it into a box. Did I mention that you tie off the garbage bag liners before you do this? The box will usually freeze overnight, and it is then hauled to the dump by snowmachine.

Always take the bucket and the box outside your house before you attempt this transfer. This may seem like common sense, but I would not mention it had not more than one person tried to do this inside their house.

Upon first learning what a honeybucket is, many people ask if there is an odor attached. Absolutely. Most honeybucket boxes are vented to the outside. If you have the misfortune of having one that is not, you do whatever you can to control the odor.

There are many options to choose from. I'll mention just a few which people have tried with varying degrees of success:

• Cutting off all heat to the honeybucket room.
• A large investment in a variety of air fresheners.
• Very frequent dumping of the honeybucket.
• Keeping the bathroom door closed at all times.
• Only going to the bathroom while they are at school.
• Denial.

We'll close this out with some final but very important comments on honeybuckets.

  • Practice good sanitary habits regarding your honeybucket.
  • Some people prefer to wear gloves when handling their honeybuckets. If you do this, make certain that is the only thing you ever do with that particular pair of gloves.
  • Always tie off your garbage bags before you move your honeybucket anywhere.
  • Always carry the bags in the bucket until you are outside and ready to dump them into a receptacle.
  • Finally, be certain that the one thing you absolutely must do at the end of the school year is empty your honeybucket before leaving for the summer. The only thing worse than dealing with a honeybucket all year is beginning your year by being greeted with one that has been sitting there all summer.
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