Featured Teacher

Healthy Futures recognizes a ‘Featured Teacher’ each month of the school year to show appreciation for some of our amazing partners and highlight some of the innovative in inspiring work being done and get a glance at the personal side of some of Alaska’s outstanding teachers.

Jean Miller

Position: Kindergarten Teacher

School: Spring Hill Elementary

Years as a Teacher: 7 Years

Years participating in the Healthy Futures Challenge:  4

My hero is . . .My heroes are my parents! They are dedicated to each other and are the strong core of our close, ever expanding family. They also take every opportunity to enjoy the Alaskan outdoors together snow biking, running Lost Lake, or taking their grandchildren ice skating. Beyond family, they are always looking for ways to give back to their community both locally and abroad. I admire the life choices that my parents have made which make a positive difference daily.

When I’m not in the classroom, you will find me... Outside! I love to nordic ski, mountain bike, run in the mountains, or do just about anything outside with my friends and family. As my kids get older and stronger, it is fun to follow them up mountains and bike on the trails together.

The craziest place I have ever been is . . . I was lucky enough to live in the tiny mountain kingdom of Lesotho (southern Africa) for two years and during that time visited most of southern and eastern Africa. I had many amazing experiences, but one stands out as the craziest. One morning we went on a bush walk in South Africa and came upon a young, angry elephant. He charged our group and then chased us crashing through the woods back to the jeep. Luckily we made it back to the jeep safely, but he continued to pursue us as we sped off down the road.

My favorite recreation/fitness activity is . . . It is really hard to choose a favorite activity! My top two in the summer are trail running and mountain biking since they are both great ways to explore the mountains. Nordic skiing is at the very top of my winter list so I’m hoping we get more snow this winter!

The most inspirational thing a student has ever said to me is. .  .I have been inspired more by the actions of the students than specific things they have said to me. We have had the students in our after-school x-country club practicing out on our playground for the last few years. Unfortunately they have been stuck learning on hard, slippery ice. They fall down 100 times every practice, but just keep getting up and trying again with huge smiles on their faces. Watching their perseverance and positive attitude while learning a challenging new skill has been truly inspiring!

My favorite strategy for motivating kids to live a healthy lifestyle is . . . I have found that the easiest way to motivate kids is to provide fun, active opportunities and then to get out there and do the activities with them. They love to run, play, and laugh with the adults in their lives and that helps create healthy lifestyle habits. A huge thank you goes out to Healthy Futures for providing so many of these fun community events to support our students and their families in becoming and staying active!

Past Recipients

Mari Høe-Raitto

Position: Elementary School PE Teachers

School: Anderson Elementary School and Crawford Elementary school

Years as a Teacher: I graduated from University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1986, and I have worked for Fairbanks North Star Borough School District off and on since then. I have worked in Outdoor Services on Eielson Air Force Base teaching outdoor winter sports since 1995, and I’ve been a full time P.E. teacher at Anderson Elementary since 2009. Since 2012, I’ve worked at both elementary schools (Crawford and Anderson) on Eielson Air Force base as their P.E. teacher.

Years participating in the Healthy Futures Challenge:  6

My hero is . . .Grete Waitz. She was a Norwegian long distance and marathon runner that was the first woman to run a marathon in under 2.5 hours. She won more marathons than any other woman (9 New York Marathons). Grete was an elementary school teacher in Oslo, Norway and she advocated and taught active, healthy lifestyles and good nutrition for young people. Grete died of cancer in 2011 at age 57. She was a great role model for athletes around the world, and a statue of her can be seen in the EPCOT center at Disney World. She told everyone she met to always believe in yourself and pursue your dreams.

The craziest place I have ever been is . . . inside a glacier in Jotunheimen, Norway and on Denali, AK.

My favorite recreation/fitness activity is . . . hiking, hunting with bird dogs, yoga, swimming and skiing, racing my sled dogs and skijoring.

The most inspirational thing a student has ever said to me is. .  . “ I just love the way I feel happy after being outside in P.E.”

My favorite strategy for motivating kids to live a healthy lifestyle is . . . Practice What I Teach—being active, living a healthy lifestyle and not being afraid of pursuing your dreams.

Other thoughts: When I’m not in the classroom you will find me spending time with my children and grandchild, gardening and working around the homestead or at my fishcamp on the Yukon, running my sled dogs, teaching skiing, dog mushing and skijoring, or working my sheep dogs.

Dianna Swaim

DiannaSwaimPosition:  Elementary School Physical Education Teacher

School: Dillingham Elementary School

Years as a Teacher:  13 years, 2 years as a P.E. Teacher

Years participating in the Healthy Futures Challenge:  2

My hero is . . . my godfather, Harold Slette who worked as a land surveyor, and as such, spent most of his time hiking up and down hills and mountains in the backcountry.  He was active throughout life, farming, hunting, fishing, and enjoying the outdoors.  He took great care of his extended family, and had a positive outlook on life, and enjoyed adventure.
When I’m not in the classroom you will find me . . .enjoying the Alaska outdoors backcountry skiing, hiking, biking, canoeing, boating, camping, fishing, and berry picking with my family, friends, and my dog.

The craziest place I have ever been is . . . crossing a 19,000 foot glaciated pass in Nepal with a stick for an ice ax.  My husband and I thought we were our own, but we met two Japanese travelers and their Sherpa guides, who were amazed that we were attempting this steep, slippery pass alone. We ended up making it just fine and went on to other adventures, such as camping with camels in the desert.

My favorite recreation/fitness activity is . . . backcountry skiing in the winter, biking in the spring and summer, and berry picking in the fall.

The most inspirational thing a student has ever said to me is. .  . “I CAN DO IT!   WATCH ME!”  I love hearing those words from my students!

My favorite strategy for motivating kids to live a healthy lifestyle is . . . encouraging students to play and be physically active doing what they enjoy. At the start of each week, or when we get back from break, I like the students to share ways they have been active, in order to inspire each other.   It is important to honor the students at school assemblies, by handing out Healthy Futures Physical Activity Incentives, as well as recognize active teachers, so that the students have role models and see that there are physically active people around them.

Other thoughts: I absolutely love teaching P.E. and encouraging students to be active on a regular basis!   Healthy Futures is an awesome way to promote healthy and active lifestyles for our students!

Dirk Miller

IMGP1106PositionElementary School Physical Education

School: Gastineau Elementary School, Juneau

Years as a Teacher: 16 years, 8 as a PE teacher.

Years participating in the Healthy Futures Challenge: 5

My hero is . . .  My national hero is Lebron James because he is a superstar, but he plays team basketball. I also admire him because James runs a bike program for youth, rewarding students with bikes if they do well academically.  My Alaska hero is Hilary Lindh of Juneau, the silver medalist in the 1992 Olympic downhill.

When I’m not in the classroom you will find me . . . out in the woods, running, skiing, hiking and biking. Over Spring Break, I will be hiking a section of the Pacific Crest Trail through the Mojave Desert.

The craziest place I have ever been is . . .  in an ice cave under the Mendenhall Glacier.

My favorite recreation/fitness activity is . . . This always surprises my kids, but my favorite recreation activity doesn’t involve a ball or a team sport. Instead, it takes a good coating of snow and a pair of Nordic skis. I’ve enjoyed skiing my whole life — it’s such an exhilarating experience being out in the woods after a fresh snowfall. 

The most inspirational thing a student has ever said to me is . . . “That was fun! When do we get to go — again?”

My favorite strategy for motivating kids to live a healthy lifestyle is . . .  to get them outdoors and introduce them to all the great recreational opportunities we have in Alaska.  That’s why I take students biking, skiing, skating, snowshoeing, hiking, trail running, and one year, even fishing. My mission is to help students fall in love with a healthy, recreational activity that becomes a lifelong passion.

Other thoughts. . . I have the best job in the world. I get to go out and have fun with youth, introduce them to new sports and new places, and it’s never boring

Tiffany Nogg

IMG_4219 copyPositionMiddle School Physical Education

School: Goldenview Middle School, Anchorage

Years as a Teacher: 12 years

Years participating in the Healthy Futures Challenge: 2

My hero is . . .Gymnast, Nadia Comaneci-First Olympic Opponent, With A Perfect 10! Quote “Do not pray for an easy life, pray to be a strong person.” –Nadia

When I’m not in the classroom you will find me . . . Hanging out with my family, enjoying the outdoors or planning a vacation to a warmer climate.

The craziest place I have ever been is . . . Underwater swimming with sharks in the Bahamas.

My favorite recreation/fitness activity is . . . Zumba, Dance, Swimming, Commercial Fishing and Hunting.

The most inspirational thing a student has ever said to me is . . . WOW, I didn’t know I could do that!

My favorite strategy for motivating kids to live a healthy lifestyle is . . . Making activities/sports fun for kids. Research has shown the biggest motivator for kids to get involved with sports and activities is if they are having fun. I believe it is also important to involve families by providing information on healthy lifestyle habits and making attainable goals.

Kayla Clark

Kayla Clark 2014 Teach of the Year

Position: PE Specialist

School: Woodriver Elementary, Fairbanks

Years as a Teacher: 18

Years in the Healthy Futures Challenge: 9

 

 

Question: Who is your hero?
Answer: Billie Jean King.

Q: When you are not in the classroom you are where?
A: Underwater in the Caribbean or Pacific Ocean.

Q: What’s the craziest place you have ever been?
A: Pelagic Magic night dive in Hawaii, sleeping in a treehouse in Belize and jumping into waterfalls on the first day of winter in Australia.

Q: What’s your favorite recreation/fitness activity?
A: Scuba diving, running and playing hockey.

Q: What’s the most inspirational thing a student has ever said to you?
A: “Thank you for being my gym teacher and getting me to exercise. Because of you, you have really helped me figure out what sports I want to do.”

Q: What’s your favorite strategy for motivating kids to live a healthy lifestyle?
A: Modeling it with my own active lifestyle, grabbing onto every teachable moment and taking an interest in hearing about the activities that my students are participating in.

Christa Hayes

teacher2013

Position: Physical Education

School:  Machetanz Elementary, Palmer

Years as a Teacher: 13

Years participating in the Healthy Futures Challenge: 8

Question: Who is your hero?
Answer: My dad! When I was in elementary school my dad had put a hand full of candy in my winter jacket pocket and sent me off on my very first 5-K cross-country ski race in Minnesota. Even though I was at the bottom of the results I was hooked. From that day on my dad has been my biggest supporter in encouraging me to set goals, work hard, never give up, and to do my best in whatever it may be! With his support and encouragement I was able to get a full ride scholarship, travel the country, and earn a spot on the U.S. development team while doing what I loved. Now 18 years later I may not be as fast as I used to be but I still live by my dad’s words: Set goals, work hard, never give up and do your best in whatever it may be that drives you. I encourage my own two boys and all of my 400 students to live by them as well.

Q: When you are not in the classroom you are where?
A: Enjoying the great Alaskan outdoors with family and friends who appreciate this magnificent state.

Q: What’s the most inspirational thing a student has ever said to you?
A:”I am going to college to be a Physical Education teacher!” I have had previous students come to me and say that they are going to college to become a Physical Education teacher, a nutritionist or even a coach so that they can encourage, teach, and help kids become more fit and feel their best for life.

Q: What’s your favorite strategy for motivating kids to live a healthy lifestyle?
A: Being that positive role-model for them to look up to as an adult who is choosing to participate and stay active right alongside of them. One example is as their Physical Education teacher I participate in their physical fitness assessment every quarter right along with them and as a team we all sit down together and write new goals and improvement plans on how we are each going to improve our fitness level before the next fitness assessment. I love hearing and seeing excited students encouraging one another to beat their previous fitness levels! Healthy Future’s Activity Logs is another great motivator in guiding our students to live a healthy lifestyle. Our students evaluate and compare each of their monthly logs to see where they were active most and how they can improve from month to month to increase their physical activity level.

Q: Do you have any other thoughts?
A: I believe that physical education is an important and vital part of each school day for every child. I believe that we teach so much more in physical education than just sport skills, we teach life. We teach children how to be strong, how to take care of their bodies, what to put in it for fuel, and what not to put in it. We teach them how to manage themselves, body and behavior, how to solve conflicts and collaborate as teammates at many different levels. We bring into our gyms through music, dance, and games different cultures and countries. We teach diversity. We support reading, writing, math, geography, social studies and science through different lessons that we teach that uses those skills. We create emotional and physical safety nets where students are safe to make mistakes, to take risks, to do their best and to learn.

Michel Woods

featured_teacher_michael_woods_2013

Position: PE Specialist

School:  Abbott Loop Elementary, Anchorage

Years as a Teacher: 21

Years participating in the Healthy Futures Challenge: From the beginning!

 

 


Question: Who is your hero?
Answer: My wife Erica because she is loyal, hard-working, beautiful inside and out and enjoys fun, activity and fitness. She is also very positive, supportive and encouraging. Amazing lady!

A: With my kids, at a baseball field or enjoying this amazing world with my wife.

Q: What’s the craziest place you have ever been?
A: Jumping off cliffs in Hawaii, unaware of the Tiger shark population due to man-made reasons. Quite intense. I survived!

Q: What’s your favorite recreation/fitness activity?
A: Running in the woods/trails or playing baseball. Basketball is up there too, plus golf and since I am in a role, racquetball.

Q: What’s the most inspirational thing a student has ever said to you?
A: “Thank you!” I love hearing about a life-long wellness mindset from an adult, which started at our school as a young child. I love hearing about success in student’s lives. My favorite strategy for motivating kids to live a healthy lifestyle is … role modeling, enthusiasm and very enjoyable and positive experiences with programs and activities. I use humor, encouraging feedback and lots of energy to connect!

Other thoughts: I have found very few things in life more satisfying then uplifting and empowering a child, especially in the world of athletics and wellness. Teaching and coaching is bigger than a ball or jump rope; it’s connecting the importance of character, social interaction, wellness and the spirit of positive play! I am very impressed with the Healthy Futures initiative and wholeheartedly believe it has made a huge difference out in community. Teaching PE has been a blast. I originally wanted to teach high school economics or history, but I would not change