STEPS Alaska Updates
Stepping Up for Alaska's Youth!
April STEPS Newsletter
Corinne James working on designs for youth messaging campaign - for more information or materials contact
Our Year with STEPS

As we wrap up the 2020-2021 school year, we would like to offer a big Gunalchéesh to all of you. We recognize that you, our school districts and community partners, did a lot to support our students and their families during the pandemic.

This newsletter highlights some of our collective work over the past year, with special attention to the information and stories shared at our recent Annual Gathering (May 6-7).  

What we know is that you have been incredibly busy this year re-learning and adapting to teach and support your students and their families. 

At our Annual Gathering, we had an opportunity to come together and process the lessons learned this year, check in and see how fellow STEPs partners did their work, and do some action planning to build on those lessons learned.

Our ever-present questions: “How do we serve students and families better? “ and “How do we do it better together?” guide our work. We hope that by checking in monthly via this newsletter, we help to build connections, spark ideas, and allow for reflection towards doing it better together for our SEAK students and families. 

In this month’s newsletter, we reflect on our year together in 3 ways: things we’ve learned, things we’ve done, and where we’re headed.

Have a great summer!
The STEPS Annual Gathering May 6-7, 2021 - Recap

The 2021 STEPS Gathering was held virtually May 6-7. The Annual Gathering website has recordings, slides, and a contact list for all participants -get connected! 

It’s not too late to give us your feedback here or reach out to our staff directly via email or phone.

Some lessons learned from this year’s gathering:
  • We are resilient & adaptive
  • We hold a common vision for the future; one where ALL students can succeed
  • Our communities & culture are part of our schools

Some next steps:
  • We will use lessons learned to partner more deeply with families
  • We will address the needs of the whole student from mental health to technology to basic needs.
  • We will deepen our partnerships, share resources and hold each other up.

Click on a session to learn more and access the recording:

“We will not go back to normal… We are being given an opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity.” 
- Poet and author Sonya Renee Taylor
 Lakrisha Brady Johnson shared how the Sitka Tribe of Alaska, Tlingit & Haida’s Head Start program, and Sitka School District worked together to collectively improve pre-K opportunities by creating the Wooch.een Preschool program
Some things we’ve learned together….

Growing Our Work: Lessons from the Pandemic 

At the STEPS Annual Meeting, educators came together to reflect on lessons learned during the pandemic. It was a tough year for everyone, but school and district staff worked hard to adapt to the current situation. Here are some words our partners shared on lessons from the pandemic. 

“We shifted to all virtual services and meetings. Even though it was challenging, we were intentional with efforts to stay connected to the partners and families we work with. In many ways our connections have grown much deeper and more secure.” Nikki Love, ROCK Juneau/Partnerships for Families & Children
Partner and family engagement has changed dramatically. Weʼre striving to be intentional with program equity, accessibility, and working regionally and collaboratively with partners. Weʼve faced challenges and difficulties balancing loads and being proactive, but that has forced continued innovation and collaboration.” Miriah Twitchell, Tlingit & Haida/I Toowú Klatseen

“It was a big shift for staff to figure out. This required a lot of personal reflection and growth. One thing I would like to carry forward is that family engagement component. How to cultivate that sense of family engagement beyond covid and making sure families (not just parents...aunties, uncles, etc) stay engaged” Lakrisha Johnson, Sitka Tribe of Alaska

“I have learned to appreciate my time with my family, connecting deeply. I have learned to be more forgiving of myself. I have grown closer to my team at the Chatham School District. I learn a lot from them.” Tanya Salmi, Angoon, Chatham Schools

“We had to become more creative in engaging parents and families virtually, but the relationships that have grown from regular calls and meetings face to face in zoom have really been life changing for some of the children in my program.” Starr Jensen, Sitka Tribe/School District

Across STEPs partners there are common themes of how to center our work moving forward.

Collecting Participant Demographics Information: Why and how?

On April 8th, AASB staff hosted a webinar for partners which included a presentation from Lauren Havens, Data and Evaluation Coordinator, focused on collecting and reporting on participant demographics. STEPS partners reflected on why collecting demographics information is so important for our work and spent time sharing challenges and brainstorming some potential solutions. 

Partners agreed that, while collecting demographics information from participants can be challenging, understanding who our programs are reaching will help us to reach our goals and ensure that we are providing critical services and supports for our high priority populations (AK Native, low income, and first generation college students).  

Some of the group’s ideas for better collecting demographics data included:
  • Working with school districts to get aggregated (and so non-identifiable) data based on a list of participant names; 
  • Making sure to include other questions in your data collection tool to make it more acceptable for participants; and 
  • Using creative tools to capture information such as interactive activities, games, and anonymous online polls (using a smartphone for in-person programming). 

Slides from the webinar can be found here and future webinars on this topic will be announced via email and STEPS newsletter. 

Interested in data? We are still looking for partners to join the STEPS Data and Shared Measurement Work Group! For more information, please reach out to Lauren at

  What we have done together…

Culturally Responsive Education - What is it and how do we move from “Knowing to doing”?
By Lisa Worl

Zaretta Hammond: Culturally Responsive Education Learning Community
Last spring, several of our STEPS annual gathering participants participated in a book study of Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain with Zaretta Hammond. That interest led to an opportunity for 30+ teachers, partners from Juneau, Sitka, Chatham as well as our district partners, Sealaska Heritage Institute and Goldbelt Heritage.

STEPS district staff and partners to register and join STEPS sponsored Zaretta Hammond online learning community on culturally responsive learning and the brain. In the midst of the pandemic, this online, asynchronous training provided a year-long space designed to help teachers and administrators learn principals behind culturally responsive instruction and to “close the Knowing to Doing Gap”. The participating school staff fine-tuned their ability to use culturally responsive instruction and have common language across their district.  

7Cs: Contribution, Confidence, Competence, Connection, Character, Coping, and Control

For all of the trauma of the past year, there have also been remarkable signs of resilience. Tlingit & Haida’s Navigators program participants recently participated in an International Resilience Exchange with counterparts in Ghana and Soldotna. During the STEPS gathering, program lead Renee Culp shared out about the youth-led initiatives to build resiliency. 
Through IRE, students learned about the 7 C’s of resilience: Competence, Confidence, Connection, Character, Contribution, Coping, and Control. The Navigators focus on each of the 7 C’s and utilize them through different activities and with varying intentions.
This year, the Navigators focused on “contribution,” working to give back to their community in different ways. Emma Phelps, a member of Navigators, proposed the idea of delivering hundreds of baked goods, thank you cards, and posters to essential frontline workers in Juneau. The Navigators distributed their tasty homemade baked goods to Bartlett Regional Hospital, Fred Meyer, Super Bear, Foodland, Police and Fire Departments, Glory Hall, Aware, and the Warming Shelter in January.
Partner Highlights: Chatham’s Melding of Culturally Responsive Education and STEM
What does it mean for education to be culturally relevant and place-based? How do we make sure that our classrooms and curricula support students in a way that they see themselves? These are the questions partners addressed at the STEPS Annual Gathering with partners from Angoon. Principal Ron Gleason, who was part of the team who started the high school in Angoon in 1976, gave background on how his time in Angoon, Juneau, and Saint Petersburg informed his approach to culturally responsive education. His takeaway - “students do better when you connect learning to where they live and who they are.” With that in mind, when he returned to Angoon a year ago he had two questions: what do parents want for their children? and are we preparing them?

It’s not the content, but a positive learning environment that gives students the skills and attributes they need to have choices in what they want to do. For Angoon, that means being able to find meaningful ways to help maintain the cultural heritage of their town while addressing the challenges the town faces.” states Principal Gleason. To best prepare Angoon’s students, Chatham District staff looked for ways to root education in place-based, culturally responsive teaching. That’s where Angoon’s ethnomath, Summer STEM Academy, Alaska Studies and Youth Conservation Corps courses came from. 
Nikki Lineham and Kate Cruz showed just how much our cultural landscapes shape our everyday lives.

Where we’re headed together...
Leveraging Mental Health Supports Through Regional Collaboration:
“Our adolescents, especially in our communities, are experiencing a high degree of depression and suicide. The social isolation and separation from their families in the past year has been hard for many. While present in our larger and smaller communities, our villages have extra challenge of limited access to mental health supports”
- STEPS mental health workgroup participant

While partners identified the need to leverage mental health supports at some of our earliest STEPS meetings, the COVID-19 pandemic has further elevated the importance of this work. All of our organizations have heard from their students, families, and colleagues that the mental health needs of our students and communities are greater than ever.
This spring, Renee Culp from Tlingit and Haida’s Navigator Program, Maressa Jensen from the Juneau School District, and Lori Grassgreen with AASB organized three sessions for STEPS partners and other mental health providers or support programs.  

The first session was held on April 27th and provided an opportunity for more than 20 mental health providers or stakeholders in Southeast Alaska to introduce themselves, share their experiences during this challenging year, and identify key areas of collaboration. Many partners were meeting for the first time.

At the second session on May 7th, partners shared their perspectives, priorities, services, and challenges. Some partners were learning about services and supports that are offered across Southeast Alaska for the first time.

In the third session, the group worked on three areas of collaboration: 1) culturally safe mental health supports and intergenerational healing models; 2) considering how to expand gaps in services/training; and 3) mental health consultation models.

Greater Collaboration- Opportunities and Resources from partners

STEPS AK provides an opportunity to share resources and to access program supports, partner knowledge, or other resources across the region. 

At the STEPS gathering we learned from a number of program providers the services they offer to other organizations as well as children and families in our region. Learn more by checking out the Lunch & Learn session here or reaching out directly to program staff.

Early Childhood programs for families - Joy Lyon, AEYC-SEA
  • Imagination Library - Free books mailed to children each month
  • Circle of Security - 8 week parent-support classes, available virtually
  • Parents as Teachers - 1-one-1 support for families, available virtually & in-person
  • Contact Joy Lyon to learn more,  
  • Collaboration for early childhood books to be offered in Tlingit and Haida

Opportunities for Shared Learning:
  • Social and Emotional Learning - In person over summer contact
  • Social Emotional Learning and Trauma Engaged Schools learning community will resume in August contact or for more information.
  • Statewide Online SEL/Trauma Engaged Practice Learning Community through AkPLN (AK Professional Learning Network) - free self-paced learning modules and statewide discussion forums
  • Tlingit & Haida Language Teaching Community - contact 
  • Culturally Responsive Educator Endorsements- May 27 contact 
  • Leveraging Mental Health Supports- Meeting dates proposed May 28 or June 10 
  • PostSecondary Alaska CAN SE Network: June 2nd, 10am - contact
  • Early Childhood Work Group: Support for parents, June 3rd, 2:30 
  • Data and Shared Measurement Workgroup: Please contact Lauren Havens at if you are interested in joining.
  • Place-Based Learning learning community contact
  • SHI’s Culturally Responsive Education Conference: August 5th - 7th
  • 2nd Quarter Financial & Program- Due July 20th (or sooner)
Next Steps from the Annual Gathering

What our next steps as a collaborative 

Family Partnerships: 

  • Training for staff: Help staff get a good grounding in community, history, and land that they’re on. Increasing staff community awareness and cultural competency will help with retention. Contact to share resources, access training, etc. 
  • Community Dialogues: Time with families to ask questions and discuss community issues. Reach out to AASB staff or for more support. 
  • Early partnerships with families: The welcoming in that first year is important to relationships with families.Share resources and network 
  • Continued communication and collaboration: School districts can look to the tribes for family engagement expertise. 
  • Share resources: Collectively gather and share resources on how to do this work. Tlingit and Haida and Headstart are working to get Family Feathers digitized. Find ways to share this and other resources.
  • Partner conversation: Follow up conversation on school district/tribe partnership on grant/Title I funded projects.

Summer Construction Academy - May 24-29
Tlingit & Haida is collaborating with the University of Southeast to support students in participating in the summer Intro to Construction Courses. The three courses during the week-long intensive are: S102 – Intro to Construction, S103 – Hand and Power tools, S104 – Safety OSHA. Students will receive 3 UAS credits as well as OSHA Construction Safety certification. 

Tlingit & Haida and UAS are working together to cover the cost of travel, lodging, food, and tuition for approximately 15-20 students from our STEPS communities. At this time, we are reaching out to our community partners and contacts to gage interest and get the word out of this opportunity. We would love to work with the school districts and communities to get a cohort of students to participate in this opportunity. If you have any questions or further information, please feel free to contact Sarah Dybdahl or Tina Ryman

Haa Latseen Fitness Concepts and Traditional Games!

Date: June 1-30
Time: 3:30pm-5:30pm M-Th and 10am-5pm Fri 
Who: 8th-12th Grade Students 
Location: Thunder Mountain High School 

Tlingit & Haida TFYS, Sealaska Heritage, and Douglas Indian Association are sponsoring a summer course that teaches students Traditional Games, outdoor adventures and cultural arts. Under the direction of a JSD teacher, students will earn .5 PE credit toward high school graduation for successful completion.   

Other Activities Include: Canoeing • Strength Training • Spear Throwing • Seal Skin Sewing  

Space is limited. Please fill out the application if you are interested. For more information, please contact: 
Kyle Worl, • 907-227-4998 
Will Kronick, • 907-713.4003   

Broadband benefits for low-income households
The FCC recently extended these benefits 
AASB Updates and Opportunities: