STEPS Alaska Updates
Stepping Up for Alaska's Youth!
Professional Learning Opportunities - Approaching the School Year With Renewed Energy

Over the past year and half, the pandemic has made it difficult for students, staff and families to focus beyond some of their most basic needs. School staff and partners report feeling overwhelmed and worn out. Many educators significantly modified their classroom practices and lessons to effectively teach amidst the pandemic.  

The research on brain science tells us that it is difficult to learn when familiar structures, routines, and essential needs are disrupted. School and organizational partner staff are no exception. Staff reported that it is hard to fully engage in learning and integrating new practices, especially in the virtual environment. 

While the beginning of a new school year has its own set of challenges, it can also provide time for school staff to reflect on what is important for students and to set goals for their own learning. Many of our STEPS partners are starting the year with a renewed commitment to professional learning and to offering specific tools for educators to feel less overwhelmed and more supported to meet student’s needs. 

This month, we share stories about some exciting STEPS professional learning opportunities 

  • September Regional Round-Up
  • Calling on Our Grandparents’ Knowledge
  • In Focus: Trauma and Social Emotional Learning in Chatham School District
  • In Focus: Learning Together in Early Childhood Education
  • Thank you and Congratulations to Joy Lyon
  • School Climate Survey Results Available for Planning 
Thank you for attending the September Regional Round-Up!
Yak’éi yagiyee!
Altein gunałchéesh, haw’aa, nt’oyxsn to all of our STEPS partners who came together for our first Regional Round-Up to connect and discuss meaningful steps going forward. Seeing the dedication you have to your communities’ youth was a great way to jump into the new school year. As you all prepare to support students returning to school, the STEPS team is here to support you.

Slides from the Round-Up are available here, a video recording is available here and other follow-up items are included below.

Thank you for everything that you do! Our students are lucky to have such a strong and conscientious support system.

For additional information on upcoming meetings please visit opportunities and announcement section of this newsletter.
Please share your feedback on the Round-Up!
We would love your feedback on the Regional Round-Up and for you to help us pick a date for the November one. Please fill out the survey below:

Calling on our Grandparents’ Knowledge: Hundreds gather to discuss culturally responsive education in Alaska
Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) wrapped up its Culturally Responsive Education Conference as part of their larger effort to promote culturally responsive pedagogy in schools. The virtual conference, held August 5 – 7, 2021, had over 450 primarily Alaskan teachers and educators participate. This year’s virtual format allowed participation from educators with southeast Alaska and throughout the country. This year’s theme was “Calling on our grandparents' knowledge for future generations—Native ways of knowing, learning and being.”
The conference included more than 25 breakout sessions on a wide range of topics, including Unpacking Equity in Juneau Schools: Critical Participatory Action Research Project, Cultural Relevance in Classrooms, Ethnomathmatics, and How Schools can Support Native Students in College Readiness.
The conference provided work sessions and classroom resources to encourage thinking around culturally-responsive pedagogies for K-12 and university settings, critical theory, place-based education, possibilities for indigenizing curriculum and building safe social environments for all learners.  
For more information on the conference and breakout sessions, check out SHI’s blog post on the event:
Keynote speaker Ethan Petticrew is a retired educator with more than 21 years in the classroom. He has also served as a curriculum coordinator for Aleutian Region School District and as the vice president for Cultural and Educational Services at the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Currently he is the Executive Director for Cook Inlet Native Head Start.
In Focus: Addressing Trauma and Social Emotional Learning in the Chatham School District

“The stress of the pandemic can completely shut me down, so I use compassion to understand why my students might be struggling or not functioning in a way that I expect” 
– Angoon Teacher

For the second year consecutive year, Lisa Worl (AASB) and Heather Coulehan (AASB) facilitated an in-service session focused on Trauma Engaged Schools for the Chatham School District staff. This year staff from Angoon and Gustavus gathered together to start the year by: 

  • Celebrating the strengths of Chatham students and families;
  • Building on these protective factors to foster emotional and cultural safety, and belonging which activates learning; and,
  • Exploring implicit bias, specifically how they get to know their students and families.

Staff were reminded of Dr. Dan Siegal’s hand model that illustrates trauma’s impact on the brain. The team then reflected on their own experiences in the pandemic and how this impacted their own learning and teaching.   

The team reviewed the “Strengths of Chatham Students” list created last year by Klukwan, Angoon, and Gustavus school staff. Chatham students bring a Knowledge of land; Traditional practices; Storytelling; Eagerness to learn; Excitement; Family; Community; Humor; and Creativity to the learning environment. This activity deepened staff understanding, particularly new teachers’ understanding, of resilience in learning and the resources already available to students and staff to boost this resilience.  

Maslow Before Bloom
The Chatham team then went deeper and explored how to use these strengths to effectively build emotional and cultural safety, and belonging, in Maslow’s hierarchy of Needs. This is the foundation of students’ ability to access the learning part of their brain described in Bloom’s taxonomy (READ MORE)
Learning Together in Early Childhood Education
Baby Raven Reads is one of the many programs designed to give families the skills and supports they need to support the growth of their young children. Photo courtesy of Sealaska Heritage Institute
Working with young children - whether as an early learning educator, caregiver, or parent - is one of the most important jobs there is. But kids don’t come with manuals. That’s why STEPS partners offer a variety of learning opportunities for all of the people who work with young children. From home-visiting programs like Parents as Teachers, to parenting courses like Circle of Security, to professional learning courses like the Child Development Academy, there’s something for everyone.

Here are just a few ways STEPS partners are providing learning opportunities for caretaking adults: 

Improving Quality Care Through the Child Development Academy
This year the Association of Education for Young Children (AEYC), Tlingit and Haida Central Council, SERRC, UAS, and the City and Borough of Juneau partnered together to offer a Child Development (READ MORE)
THANK YOU and Congratulations to Joy Lyon, Retiring after 25 years
Joy Lyon, the Executive Director of the Association for the Education of Young Children Southeasteast Alaska, is retiring after 25 years.

It’s no coincidence that the Partnership for Families and Children has been meeting monthly for 25 years; Joy and her organization have tirelessly advocated for the needs of young children while bringing together partners from across the community to share resources, identify gaps, and learn from each other.

The regular lunch-time gatherings have helped strengthen and expand the web of support for young children and families in the community. Joy will be missed, though she leaves behind a lasting legacy and a very competent staff including incoming Executive Director Blue Shibler.
Joy Lyon Retirement
Using School Climate Responses for Planning and Professional Learning
2109 STEPS Yakutat SCCS
"During professional development sessions in 2020 Yakutat school staff used School Climate and Connectedness Survey results to develop strategies for improving student-teacher relationships. The staff's efforts to be intentional about showing their enthusiasm and care paid off; students' perception of caring adults went up 11% according to the 2021 SCCS results."
Starting off the school year looking at the School Climate & Connectedness Survey responses can give a school and community team insight into how staff, students, and families feel about school safety, staff support, family partnerships, cultural connectedness, and more. This can provide insight on how to best address professional development needs and other steps for your district/ organization to take.

Below are 2021 staff responses on trauma engaged schools within our STEPS partner footprint:
STEPS 2109 Trauma
While the majority of staff at STEPS schools feel supported to respond to trauma (READ MORE)
Opportunities and Announcements
STEPS Professional Learning Communities and Work Groups Back
2109 STEPS
This upcoming month we have a number of other meetings for you to dive into your areas of interest further.

Alaska CAN Statewide Convening: Equity and Access; Exploring barriers to Postsecondary participation
When: Monday, September 27, 3-5pm
Who: School and college advisors, school and university administrators, Tribal and community partners from across the state.
What: A statewide conversation exploring barriers and strategies to support Alaskan students

Lingit & Xaat Kil Teachers PLC
When: Tuesday, September 28, 3-4:30pm
Who: Lingit & Xaat Kil teachers
What: A STEPS Professional Learning Community focused on language teaching and learning
How to connect: Contact Lisa Worl, to join in

Alaska CAN Regional Meeting: 
When: Wednesday, October 6, 10am
Who: Southeast Alaska CAN partners/anyone who is interested
What: Networking, sharing resources & opportunities; part of the meeting will focus on Haa Atxhaaiy pathways
How to connect: Email/call Emily,, 907 723-6599

The Partnership for Families and Children 
When: Wednesday, October 6, 12-1:30pm
Who: Started in Juneau 25 years ago as a group of service providers who wanted to coordinate services for families of young children. Now that the monthly meetings take place on Zoom, those outside of Juneau are also welcome to join, especially since many of the agencies provide services across Southeast Alaska. 
How to connect: Contact Nikki Love, to be added to the monthly meeting invite.

Regional Round-ups

Based on the desire to meet as a group in smaller chunks of time more regularly, we have tentatively scheduled Regional Round-up sessions for all STEPS partners to occur every two months on the 2nd Thursday of the month from 3:30 to 5:00 pm. If these dates and times consistently conflict with other obligations for you and your team, please let us know and we will look to reschedule.
Please mark your calendars!
  • November 10th
  • January 13th
  • March 10th
Each of these sessions will have a theme and an opportunity for cross-regional sharing and connection. 
Who should attend the Regional Round-ups?

Anyone on your team who works on STEPS projects or partners with a STEPS project! Think of those who might attend the annual STEPS gathering. 

For more information or questions, please contact Emily Ferry -
Looking for additional ideas? Check out the STEPS resources page for past newsletters and other STEPS-related resources.
Don't forget: Quarter 3 reports due Oct. 20!

On September 15, STEPS staff hosted the Quarter 3 Reporting Webinar. The team went over all things financial and program reporting and answered questions for the upcoming quarter. 

Please note that as of Q3, we are launching a new Program Report Template, which will be sent to you on Monday, September 20 with the rest of the reporting instructions as well as slides from the webinar.

Missed the webinar? The video recording will be available Monday along with the slide deck.