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The Dena’ina School:

Meets in the bottom floor of the council building in Pedro Bay.

Has an unofficial enrollment of 4 students.

Is comprised of four of those banquet tables you often see in church basements and at craft bazaars.  We also have an old computer desk in the corner holding books and games and art supplies, and one other folding table, holding bins and brushes and paper for when we need creative outlet.

Has an amazing view on three of its four sides.  To the south, where I am looking now, is Lake Iliamna, Many Islands Lake, and right now it is trying to freeze.  Surrounding the Many Islands Lake are hills and mountains, some of the most arrestingly, stunningly beautiful ones I’ve seen in my life.

Also to the south is the light.  As it is winter, pre-solstice, and Alaska, the light is a commodity right now.  I am looking at a cloud-pocked sky that is the palest of pale blues.  The clouds, which bank along the bases of the mountains, are a silvery gunmetal gray, but bright, if that is possible.  Beneath the sky and the clouds and the hills are the people, their houses, us.

At my right is Knudson Mountain, drenched in snow and sunlight.  It is the larger of the mountains around here, rising 2000 feet or so.  It is lovely.

I cannot see to the east, as the wall of the council blocks my view.  But behind me, should I turn around, I would see Village Mountain and a beautiful rising slope of snow and trees and waterfalls.  In many ways, this is God’s gift, and it is a miracle to be here among it.

The school day spans from around 9 am to around noon.  Sometimes we get a late start, sometimes we don’t.  The last few days have been quite cold, hovering near 0, and no one is excited to get up and dress in the dark just to trudge themselves to school (or the office) in such cold temps.  We are lucky however; in Fairbanks and the Interior, they have been experiencing highs of -20, and in some places the temps have dropped to -45 or -50.   I have never been in degrees so low, -17 I think is my record, but I am grateful for the cold all the same.  The cold is what keeps Alaska as it is, its people, its culture, its way of life.

I look forward to the end of the school day today.  I will ask the students–Keisha, Brandon, Claire, Audri–to list their accomplishments this first week, and then to draft a quick note of what they would like to have done, but did not, due to whatever and whatnot.  This will serve as my reflective assessment, and I will make Seattle University proud (not that I need to, not that I want to, I just cannot think of reflective instruction without a shout out to my grad school profs.  Huzzah.).

I will walk home, possibly with Claire, to see how my husband John is doing, have some lunch, and begin work on the EPA/IGAP grant I have been assigned to finish by Dec. 20.

It is snowing.

The sun shines through.

It is a day to be teaching in Pedro Bay.