Alaska Teacher Placement
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Teaching in Alaska

This section of our site is intended to answer questions potential job seekers in Alaska are likely to ask. And you should be asking questions. Working as a teacher in Alaska – particularly rural and remote Alaska – is nothing like teaching in the Lower 48. It can be incredibly rewarding.

Alaska has opportunities, and challenges you won't find elsewhere. It is important to be an educated job candidate if you are going to find a good match for both your professional skills and interests, and your personal lifestyle requirements. 

Not (Necessarily) Your Average Teaching Job!

Alaska offers a wide variety of different professional settings. Teachers tend to move around a bit in my experience.

Urban / Road System Settings

Teaching in the more urban, and road system connected school districts in Alaska is much like working anywhere in, say, the Pacific Northwest, but with arguably better scenery and outdoor recreation access! Think "Moab meets Portland". 

There is a great "small town" quality of life, even in our largest cities.  In these areas, well resourced schools, a variety of after school activities similar to Lower 48 locations, such as football and swim teams, and school buses for the kids. There are also state and city maintained roads, supermarkets, movie theaters, dentists and doctors, ice rinks, and local television stations. A residential housing market exists.  World class fishing abounds, hunting, snowmobiling, cross country skiing, climbing and hiking are all readily accessible. Alaskans are active outdoors year-round. There is even access to surprisingly great downhill skiing from several Southcentral communities, and a couple in Southeast.

Rural / Remote Village Settings

Teaching in much of rural Alaska, however, is still, in 2022, a true adventure. Hundreds of educators in the last two decades have traded all the comforts and normal routines they are used to for the chance to live and work in rural Alaska. They have moved to some of the last traditional Alaska Native communities in North America, where subsistence hunting and fishing, or commercial fishing villages, or remote logging camps.   They have built meaningful relationships with students, and community members.  In many cases, they have had more professional autonomy, in-service training, cross-cultural opportunities than any Lower 48 education career would have offered them. Finally, wherever you go in rural Alaska, the outdoor recreation, and wildlife viewing opportunities statewide are really off the charts.

Many of these educators originally came for a year or two, but ended up staying for a decade, or even the balance of their careers. Others do come for just a few years of the experience, and then go on to other endeavors with lasting memories of their Alaska adventure.

Teachers, and "teaching couples" in rural Alaska tend to move from site-to-site within a district every few years, or move to other districts. Teaching in the Bush is a very portable profession in a high demand niche.  Teachers in the urban districts tend to have more typical career paths with longer stretches in a building, or even in a class or grade level.

The rural teaching lifestyle in Alaska is not for everyone, though, and so we focus on that more than urban settings. ATP wants you to know both the potential rewards, as well some of the challenges.  Check our Featured Bush Educators page for links to teacher blogs and books about their lifestyle and work life in rural Alaska.

Be an Informed Job Candidate

In addition to this general overview page, we strongly encourage you to use the resources on this website to research in more detail the school districts, and village locations around the state before applying for a position. There are wide differences in settings, so do your homework!

Not only will districts be impressed when you demonstrate your knowledge about them, they will realize that you are a serious, informed candidate. School districts really do want people working for them in their schools and villages by choice, not by accident.

The ATP Applitrack Job Bank system allows you to upload your resume information in a detailed profile, and upload supporting documents, such as letters of introduction. It gives you the ability to convince districts that you know about their needs and setting, as well as what sort of living and working arrangements you are seeking. 

Two Distinct Alaskas Exist

There are really two different worlds you need to understand when thinking about living and teaching in Alaska: urban and rural. The differences are striking.

Living or working in the urban areas of Alaska is much like anywhere else in the Lower 48 – but with better scenery and fishing! Urban in Alaska isn't "urban" like major cities in the Lower 48, either. Even Anchorage, Alaska's largest urban area, would just be a small city in comparison with most cities you've been to in your experiences in most US states. Juneau, in fact,  would be considered a small town.

Sure, you may have to plug your engine block heater in up in Fairbanks to keep the car from locking up in winter, and you have to learn to drive on snow-covered roads. But, you still perform most of your day-to-day tasks the same way as you always have.

Your job search for Alaska's urban settings will be much like a search with any school district in the Lower 48. If are looking at for a position in Anchorage, Mat-Su, Fairbanks, Juneau or Kenai Peninsula areas, you don't really need to do things much differently in terms of your search strategy. All of these districts have fairly specific hiring procedures, and although your job search here will link to their openings, you really need to also go to their own Applitrack websites, and follow their guidelines for applying.  Download our Big Six Explainer document here:

Cover all your bases with applying to Alaska's urban districts, but realize that compared to rural districts, their application process often has very specific procedures that must be followed closely. Use ATP's Applitrack searches, but make sure you know what other requirements exist for jobs posted by the Big Six districts. 

Teaching in the Bush

The vast majority of Alaska not connected to the existing road system – the Bush – is a hugely different thing. There is much more on this topic on the About Alaska page.

In short, the only areas with any connection to the major road system in North America are in the Southcentral and Interior regions of the state.  Two highway connections cross over the border from Canada, and communities around Fairbanks and down toward Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula are "on the Road System". The Alaska Marine Highway (ferry) system connects communities in Southeast Alaska all year, and along the Gulf Coast and Alaska Peninsula only seasonally in the warmer months.

On this map, the red lines are mostly two-lane blacktop "highways". The "C" road is the "haul road" to the North Slope oil fields. There are unpaved roads that link up to smaller communities along these areas, but other than in towns, these are the only roads in the state. The vast majority of Alaska is fly-in only, or "in the Bush".  There are some self-contained, mostly unpaved road networks in a few remote communities like Nome, or on several of the main islands.

Alaska's Road System & Marine Highway System

Info Nugget: Just like rural Australia, New Zealand, and parts of Africa, the remote places in Alaska are collectively referred to as "the Bush". In our case, the definition hinges on transportation access.

Technically, demographers don't really have a word that adequately describes our diverse and scattered collection of over 250 small villages, towns and remote outposts. See our About Alaska page for more details about our "Last Frontier" setting.

Alaska statutes define "rural" as meaning a community with a population of 5500 or less, and not connected by road or rail to Anchorage or Fairbanks, or with a population of 1,500 or less and still connected by road or rail (AS 14.43.600-14.43.700). The vast majority of the state of Alaska meets this definition. There are other definitions.

A study done by the Regional Education Laboratory at Education Northwest a few years ago found that about 64% of Alaska's districts, 53% of its schools, and 40% of its population are in the Bush (REL Northwest). McDiarmid and others have found that the majority of jobs for teachers new to Alaska are found in Bush settings. Teachers leaving Bush schools frequently are headed to road system districts. Therefore, if you are coming up from the Lower 48, it is not unreasonable to expect that you may begin your Alaskan career in rural Alaska.

Although statistically speaking, rural school districts lose more teachers in a typical year, this doesn't mean that all districts in the Bush have high turnover. In fact, a few rural districts have regularly had among the lowest turnover in Alaska. Turnover varies from year-to-year, site-to-site, and in relation to district leadership changes, as well as regional events and trends.

In fact, you may choose to make a career of Bush education. The respected role of career Bush educator is still found in Alaska. There are some very talented teachers and principals who would not work on the road system for twice the money, and all the fresh produce you could offer.

Many of these professionals have worked in a variety of villages over the years, and are almost living legends in education circles. Likewise, there are many well known "teaching couples" in the Bush.

Career Bush teachers and principals have made significant contributions to the lives of Alaska's village students, and are proud to excel in this particular niche of education. They have lived in, and raised their families in some of the most unique and spectacular settings on earth. Some have come up "just for a year or two", and never left.

Village Adjustments

Village residents are pretty comfortable in their world, and skilled at living there. You it will probably go better for you if you just accept that there is a learning curve, and embrace the experience.

Newcomers need to view this is as a true cross-cultural experience - whether they move to a Native village or regional hub with more of a mixed population. Check out our Featured Alaska Teacher blogs and books for first hand accounts of adjustments. You may also want to check out Ray Barnhardt's

Everything is different:

Buying food and supplies, getting around, the smells and scenery, social expectations, and local lingo will all be different. Frankly, you will feel like you've landed on a different planet your first day off the plane.

Moving from the Lower 48 to the Bush is truly a cross-cultural experience. You can get some sense of this by reading our About Alaska page. This is like moving overseas in many ways. That is one reason that candidates with Peace Corps experience, or other successful situations where they have adjusted to another culture, are highly prized.  We aren't trying to discourage you. Quite the opposite. But, we do want to help you make informed decisions. It's better for all concerned in the long run.

Be aware that the vast majority of district interview teams will not lie to you. They don't want to replace you at Christmas, and they definitely have a vested interest in making you successful in their schools. If you ask the right questions about the village they are considering you for, you most often will get an honest, candid answer.

How do you become an informed candidate in the eyes of the school districts?

  • Do your research on the districts, and villages on this site, and using your favorite search engine.
  • Learn from the resources on this page what some of the instructional challenges will be.
  • Get a sense of what you are willing to accept in terms of lifestyle adjustments, social isolation, cross-cultural stressors, etc.
  • Factor in the recreational, and life experience opportunities available in each possible location.
  • Get a short list of districts and sites before you begin contacting potential employers.
  • Ask intelligent, thoughtful questions during your interviews, but don't grill your interviewers.
  • Despite all the advice in the world, be prepared to keep an open mind!

Practical Matters

Sample PFD Check

Why Would You Want to Teach in Alaska?

There is a national teacher shortage, and educators who have experience, or are finishing a traditional teacher / administrator preparation program can go pretty much anywhere they want in the United States right now.  Alaska teacher recruiters are struggling to find enough high quality candidates to fill their positions.

So, what are some of the factors that would make Alaska a good choice for you?

  • Alaska is not just hype. It delivers.
    • More beautiful, and more outdoor recreation than you imagine
  • Competitive pay & benefits packages
    • No state pay scale - each school district has a bargaining unit (union)
    • Teachers union contract is called a "negotiated agreement" in Alaska
    • Salary offer depends on years experience / highest degree earned
    • Google "Alaska", "school district"  "negotiated agreement" "pdf"
    • Example search:  (LMGTFY)
    • Rural / remote districts generally have higher pay & benefit incentives
    • says average is $62,154 (September, 2022)
    • Typical range is between $52,000 to $76,000 per year
    • 90th percentile teacher salary is $88,200 per year
    • Many districts offer incentives and benefits to compensate for isolation, cost of living
      • Subsidized, furnished housing common in rural locations
      • Laptop purchase / provision plans in many districts
      • Some districts offer signing / relocation bonuses
      • Many districts offer round trip airfare from Anchorage to village annually
      • Some districts offer longevity bonuses
        • One example: Work 3 / 5 / 7 years, get $3K / $7.5K / $10K bonus
  • Alaska has a REVERSE income tax:
    • The Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD)
    • No state income tax in Alaska
    • State pays a portion of oil investment portfolio profits each year to residents
    • Amount varies each year based on fund performance, state contributions
    • Direct deposited in October
      • 2022 amount: $3284 per person per household
      • You have a spouse? That's $6,568
      • Two kids? That's $13,136
    • New residents qualify after first year of residency (calendar year #2)
  • Teacher Retirement System (TRS):
    • District contribution: 7% salary / Teacher contributions: 8% salary
    • Taken "Pre-Tax": Lowers tax liability by reducing salary 15%
    • 401-K style investment options
    • Teacher contributions vested & fully portable immediately!
    • District contributions "Vesting" scale:
      • Year 2: 25% / Year 3: 50% / Year 4: 75% / Year 5: 100%
    • After 5 years, both District & Teacher contributions fully "portable"
  • Low student-to-teacher ratios
  • Personal connection to students and community
  • Strong student loan repayment programs (see below)
  • Excellent schedule of ~180 work days August to May
    • Usually a break for Christmas
    • Travel - Teachers can access Hawaii, Asia and Europe cheaply
  • Cross-cultural experiences that truly unique
  • Natural beauty & wildlife speriences National Geographic staff would envy
  • Well equipped / resourced classrooms - even in remote areas
  • Opportunity to coach / chaperone / advise activities in most schools
  • Districts provide quite extensive staff development resources
  • Many districts provide a mentor for each new teacher

Teacher Loan Forgiveness Programs

Most rural, and many urban Alaskan schools with low income populations are eligible for three teacher loan forgiveness programs, depending on the type of loan you have.  There is an official database of which schools qualify as "low income" by year, which is linked below, and a new "Loan Repayment Simulator" tool to compare different options.

Important: You can get credit for service even if that job was in the past, not your present position.

There are very specific criteria for each of these programs that allow some teachers in low income schools to get part,  or even all of their loans paid off. The rules vary by loan type, certification area, school, and number of years you teach there, but range from $5,000 to 100% of your teacher loans forgiven or cancelled.

Again, this is not just for new teachers. If you meet the listed Stafford or Perkins loan criteria, and taught in one of these schools, you should really check it out. The list that the U.S. TCLI folks keep goes back to 1998, and as long as you fill out the form, and have the Chief Administrative Officer of the district you worked for sign it, you may get some repayment help. You can get credit for service in eligible schools that you've worked in since 1998.

You will need persistence. All of these programs place the burden on YOU, the teacher to pursue the right forms from your bank servicing the loan (which typically does not want you to pay off early), and the right decision makers to sign forms. You then have to track down the certifying official in the school district you worked for in those years, and get their signature. Many districts are not well versed in the program, but it's usually the HR Director, Business Manager or Superintendent who will need to sign.

The database you want is called the "Teacher Cancellation Low Income (TCLI) Directory".  It lists each year the designated public and private nonprofit elementary and secondary schools approved by the U.S. Department of Education as having a high concentration of students from low-income families.

TCLI Directory Database - Search by Location & Year

Here is an export I did for last school year (2021-22) for Alaska schools and districts, sorted by district, and set up for filtering in Excel. As you can see, most of Alaska is represented (383 schools) on the approved list.  I tried to do this for 2022-23, but the data was not yet (10/8/22) available. 

  • TCLI List for Alaska: 2021-22 SY - Filter by district or school name

The number of Alaska schools eligible for TCLI designation does not vary much year-to-year, but there are some slight differences, and you must actually verify a school's status for each school year you work there.  Be aware that although the vast majority of rural Alaskan schools qualify, there are exceptions in communities where parental income statistics are skewed by commercial fishing or other sources of income.

Ranking the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Programs

In order - from best to worst - the loan forgiveness / cancellation programs are:

1) Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation (Perkins) - this one ROCKS. Almost all teachers in TCLI schools benefit, even during first two years, and if you work in qualify schools for five years,  you can have up to 100% "cancelled" as follows:

  • 15% canceled per year for the first and second years of service = 30% of your loans
  •  20% canceled for the third and fourth years  = 70% of your loans
  •  30% canceled for the fifth year = 100% of your loans
    • 5 years in MOST rural Alaska schools = Perkins Loan Debt Free!!
2) Federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness (TFL) - Forgives between $5,000 (everyone) and $17,500 (Special Ed, HS Math & Science) forgiven if in TCLI qualified school with 30% or more poverty level. Most rural Alaska schools will qualify, and many road system schools as well!

3) Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) - Aimed at public service employees, so based on WHO you work for, more than specific schools. School teachers count! You have to have 120 on-time,  full amount,  monthly payments before any benefit can be had.

Use the handy program comparison overview to figure out a strategy based on YOUR specific loan types. For example, you can't use both Teach Loan Forgiveness (TFL), which is school building specific, and Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), which is "organization / employer" specific,  at the same time.

TLF vs PSLF Chart

Effective Bush Teachers

Studies of successful Bush teachers in Alaska identified the following characteristics:

  • Skills to assist all students in meeting high standards – Effective rural teachers use a variety of techniques to assure that all children progress. Differentiated instruction is one such approach.
  • Intellectual breadth and curiosity – Most village teachers must teach subjects outside their fields.
  • Multiple talents and practical skills – Rural communities need teachers who can do more than teach school but can also lead or coordinate extracurricular activities and enrich the school environment.
  • Political skills – In small communities, teachers must be astute politicians and be wary of community politics.
  • Interpersonal savvy – In Alaska Native villages, teachers must decipher the unwritten rules of cross-cultural communication. They will be judged on their personal as well as professional qualities.
  • High academic expectations and varied teaching strategies – Effective rural teachers have a strong academic orientation and do not use cultural differences to excuse low achievement. They also have many teaching strategies to use in different situations.
  • Entrepreneurial spirit – Effective village teachers form educational partnerships with the community, and design education that fits particular places.

Although an older resource, the excellent 1981 collection of articles by rural Alaska teachers about working with, and connecting with learners in cross-cultural settings is still very useful for those preparing to teach in the Bush:

What's in a Grade Level?

You should also be aware that multigrade schools are quite common in the Bush. These have three or more grade levels combined for instruction, and require some quite different skills than a graded classroom.

We have some links on our Multigrade Teaching page that should help you understand how and why education in this setting is both challenging and rewarding.

If you are looking for practical information, don't skip over Bruce Miller's excellent 1989 work from NWREL called The Multigrade Handbook. Do not be misled by the publication date, or grainy scans. This is still a very relevant and valuable resource for anyone thinking about how to organize for instruction in a multiage or multigrade school setting. It has examples, and research-based conclusions about the nuts and bolts of multigrade classroom practice.

  • Download the Multigrade Handbook (PDF)

Finally, one of the best sources of information is our ATP Forum. Post your questions about requirements, districts or villages. Anonymous postings are fine. You may be surprised who responds...we have many experienced Bush teachers, district administrators, and Alaska EED officials subscribed!

Next Steps

We hope that you found some useful information here to give you a better sense of what teaching in Alaska has to offer!   The next steps for most candidates would be:

Good luck, and let us know if you find resources we should add, or discover broken links.