Earn While You Learn

Associate Teacher Apprenticeships Available in YK Region

Storyknife, January/February 2022 edition

Evelyn Sakar of Chuathbaluk has been a teacher aide in the Kuspuk School District for many years. Under a new apprenticeship program supported by Calista Corporation and Calista Education and Culture, Inc., she’s working toward an Associate Teacher degree.

Evelyn Sakar photo

Teacher Apprentice Evelyn Sakar of Chuathbaluk

It’s an initiative to train up local teachers in the Yukon Kuskokwim Region, where barriers to “growing our own” educators have remained high even when funding is secured.

Sakar is shy about discussing her studies because she wants to succeed before encouraging others to apply. She credits Calista’s Shareholder Development staff for keeping her motivated.

“Also, I’m really thankful I was funded by a Calista Education and Culture, Inc., scholarship,” Sakar says. “I’m very happy that they are involved.”

Additional support for the Associate Teacher Apprenticeship program comes from grants provided by the Association of Village Council Presidents and the State of Alaska’s Registered Apprenticeship Program.


So far, two YK school districts—Yupiit and Kuspuk—have hired apprentices, and more are welcome to participate.

Teacher Apprenticeships

A former member of Calista’s Shareholder Development team, Jacqueline Garcia, assisted the two school districts with setting up the program. Leila Johnson is Calista’s new Lead Training and Development Specialist and will continue supporting Shareholder participation in apprenticeship programs.

In an interview for this article, Garcia emphasizes that teacher apprenticeships are open to junior high school students, not just adults.

This program is a way to grow our own teachers to help provide economic opportunities, growth, financial stability, and self-sufficiency, she says.


Lance Jackson, the former principal of the Yupiit School District’s Akiak School, worked with Garcia to implement the program in his district.

Jackson believes a paradigm shift is needed in the educational system. With community support, YK village residents do not have to leave their communities to attain college degrees, he says.

For example, school districts can help teacher apprentices succeed by providing opportunities for on-the-job learning and childcare support so they can study without distraction.

Remote study at the village level can be challenging, however, group study and mentorship opportunities are provided with an apprenticeship, Garcia says.

Jackson adds, “It’s up to us now, at the community level, to push this teacher program forward in our districts and maybe expand it to others.”