The UAS PITAAS (Preparing Indigenous Teachers for Alaska Schools) program is going into its 10th year as the recipient of a $1.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
PITAAS provides scholarship funds for Alaska Native students who plan to teach in Alaska public schools after graduation.
“The goal is to encourage graduates to go back to their communities and teach,” said Dean of Professional Studies Larry Harris.
“We’ve learned a lot more about how to keep these students in school,” said PITAAS director Jacque Tagaban. “UAS is a model to listen to Alaska Native staff and faculty about what it takes to get students to stay here,” she said. About 20% of UAS students are Alaska Native. But only 5% of teachers in Alaska schools are Alaska Native.
The goal is to graduate at least 10 PITAAS students per year. In the spring of 2008, a record 12 graduates were from the PITAAS program. The program has graduated 32 students since it began in 1999. At least 13 are certified teachers employed around the state.
In 2009, the new grant funds will help bring PITAAS teachers to UAS Ketchikan and Sitka campuses for the first time. The grant will also enable the expansion of Future Teachers clubs to Southeast middle schools. A PITAAS Future Teachers club at Juneau Douglas High School now serves as a model to inspire future teachers.
Forty PITAAS students are enrolled at UAS this Fall. They include students seeking undergraduate early childhood and elementary degrees as well as graduate students in the M.A.T. and Me.D. programs.
“There is always a need for more representation of our people in the educational system that changed our culture,” said PITAAS alum and teacher Hans Chester. “Going through the teaching programs was a great experience. I learned to be proactive with language development and infuse Tlingit culture in western education.”
Chester is in his fourth year teaching K-1 at Glacier Valley Elementary School in Juneau.