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UAS Honors Pauline Kookesh Duncan with Honorary Doctorate of Education at 2021 Commencement Ceremony

Pauline has created an invaluable legacy of teaching materials that merge Tlingit culture and language with Alaska educational standards.

Juneau, Sitka, Alaska

Date of Press Release: April 16, 2021

Pauline Duncan, credit: James Poulson, Daily Sitka Sentinel
Pauline Duncan, credit: James Poulson, Daily Sitka Sentinel

The University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) uses the occasion of Student Commencement each year to recognize individuals in our community who have offered outstanding service to the university, the state of Alaska, or Southeast communities. Honorary degrees are bestowed on individuals who exemplify a significant and lasting contribution to the university, to the State of Alaska, or to the individual’s discipline or profession. The UA Board of Regents approves candidates who are nominated by local campuses. This year UAS will honor Pauline Kookesh Duncan with an Honorary Doctorate of Education.

Pauline Duncan is greatly respected as a teacher and culture bearer. She created an invaluable legacy of teaching materials that merge Tlingit culture and language with Alaska educational standards. Ms. Duncan’s achievements reflect her dedication to the exchange of cultural knowledge and her considerable talent and expertise in the field of elementary education. An accomplished classroom teacher, her experience spans over 30 years at all levels from pre-kindergarten to high school. She retired from the Sitka School District in 2005.

Before the mid-nineties, culturally relevant classroom materials for young children were not available to her did not exist, and Pauline took it upon herself to create them. The result of this work is found in beautiful books and posters which have become a cornerstone resource for schools meeting the Alaska Cultural Standards for Students. They are widely used in schools throughout Tlingit traditional homelands.

Her book Raven Stories, part of the "Baby Raven Reads” series, was recognized as groundbreaking work by the National Library of Congress Literacy Awards Best Practice as an Honoree, one of only 15 programs in the world to receive the honor in 2017. The series is a foundation for community early childhood events that targets early learning and literacy strategies.

Ms. Duncan’s books encourage children to read, encourage parents to read to children, and pass down traditional stories so they are not lost. Ms. Duncan’s books are carried in bookstores throughout Alaska and are very popular with Alaska residents and visitors.

The importance of Ms. Duncan’s work is widely recognized. She has received many awards and honors, including Alaska Bilingual Educator of the Year from the Alaska Association for Bilingual Education, the Alaska Federation of Natives President’s Award, and the Sitka Tribe of Alaska Citizen of the Year, to name a few. She was the first recipient of the SheeAtika Corporation Charlie Joseph Culture and Heritage Award.

UAS is proud to honor Pauline Kookesh Duncan at the 2021 Commencement Ceremony, which will be prerecorded and held virtually. Virtual commencements for all three UAS campuses — Juneau, Ketchikan, and Sitka — will be available for viewing on the UAS commencement site on April 30 at 5 p.m.

Press Release Contact

Keni Campbell
University of Alaska Southeast
(907) 796-6509