I moved to a tiny Alaskan village and worked as a teacher to 5 students. I was able to save $1,000 a month, see the Northern Lights, and walk on glaciers. – DAVID RAUDALES

DAVID RAUDALES

Businessman, musician / former Full Stack Developer

DAVID RAUDALES UK

I moved to a tiny Alaskan village and worked as a teacher to 5 students. I was able to save $1,000 a month, see the Northern Lights, and walk on glaciers.

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Courtesy of Taryn Williams

Taryn Williams moved to a tiny Alaskan village to work as a teacher, in 2020.She says teaching was more enjoyable in the village because it was more 1-on-1. Williams also says she was shocked by the high prices of items, but got to experience things she only dreamed of.

In 2020, I moved to a tiny village in Alaska to take a teaching job. Living and working in Perryville, a village of less than 100 people, is beyond anything that I knew existed when I was a child. In many ways, this has been a dream for me.

I was able to live in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen and, for a little over three years, I emerged myself in a culture that’s different from my own. This meant every day was a new adventure and I was constantly learning.

These past few years have been unforgettable. Here are my most memorable experiences while teaching and living in the Alaskan Bush.

Teaching was more enjoyable because I only had five students

A view of Perryville.

Courtesy of Taryn Williams

Working with the families that invited me into different villages has been an incredible experience. In my most recent position, class sizes were limited and I was able to teach much smaller groups of students than I was previously accustomed to. In Philadelphia, my class size was usually around 27 students, but this past year in Alaska, I had only five.

The smaller class size allowed me to get to know each student individually and I had the opportunity to prepare instructions that met their personal needs and goals. This made teaching more enjoyable — and I usually learned as much from my students as they did from me.

Living in the Alaskan Bush taught me how to travel in small planes and think more about how I communicate

A view of Perryville from above.

Courtesy of Taryn Williams

The place where I lived belongs to the Alutiiq people. Our district encompassed an area that was split among three Indigenous peoples: Alutiiq, Yup’ik, and Deni’ana Athabaskan. The area is an incredibly expansive and diverse place.

The majority of the state is considered an “off the road system,” which means you have to fly, boat, or ride a snow machine to remote villages. At first, I was terrified of the smaller planes, but now I prefer it.

The flights that bring people to the villages are called bush planes — or air taxis — and generally fit between four and 12 people. This is one of the experiences that has become very commonplace for me. When I traveled to the different villages with my students, I was able to learn the cultural customs of each group.

Since living here, I’ve learned to be much more careful with my words and thoughtful about how I phrase things. Common phrases that are often used incorrectly in the US like “pow wow” and “middle of nowhere” can be disrespectful and have been taken out of my vocabulary, for example.

For people who live outside of Alaska, one of the most shocking things is the prices

Perryville covered in snow.

Courtesy of Taryn Williams

High prices present a serious equity issue, because the cost of receiving shipments or traveling outside of the city is astronomical.

My flight from Anchorage to Perryville, which usually took around three hours, was $744 each way. This cost is higher than what it would be for me to go to nearly any other major city in the US or Europe from Anchorage. Likewise, we have to pay extra to receive deliveries.

When I ordered 12 items, or two weeks worth of groceries from Instacart, it cost $115. I also had to pay an additional $55 to get the items to me.

Despite the general higher cost of living I was able to save more than I did working other positions. Teacher housing, in districts like mine, is subsidized. My rent was only around $600 including utilities, which is about one-third of what I would’ve paid had I lived in Anchorage or Fairbanks, the two largest cities in the state. This — along with very precise budgeting — allowed me to save at least $1,000 each month.

Teaching in the Alaskan Bush has allowed me to experience everything the state has to offer

The Matanuska Glacier.

Courtesy of Taryn Williams

I’ve experienced things I’d only dreamed of, from seeing the Northern Lights to walking on glaciers and watching bears casually stroll through Anchorage — Alaska’s largest city.

Over school breaks, I’ve been able to travel around the state and find new experiences; one such adventure was visiting the Matanuska Glacier — an incredible natural structure on the road system north of Anchorage — and another was seeing the top of Denali, one of the tallest mountains in the world.

I’ve also been able to travel with my students, which is a uniquely incredible and gratifying experience. Last winter, we visited Fairbanks, where we were able to attend the World Ice Sculpture Championships and slide down creations made of pure ice.

I now look forward to exploring other aspects of my life more deeply

Williams posing in front of the Matanuska Glacier.

Courtesy of Taryn Williams

At the moment, I’m taking some time off to travel before finding my next position. This was not a decision I made easily or lightly, and one that came after some unexpected changes at my school district that didn’t align with my goals. I had always wanted to travel more — but hadn’t been able to afford to do so much in my 20s — so this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

This is the first time I’ve taken time off since I entered the field of education thirteen years ago. Although I hadn’t planned on taking this time now, I know it’s the right decision for me. Though I don’t yet know exactly what I’ll do after the time off, I imagine that I’ll most likely continue to work in the education field in some capacity. It’s also likely that I’ll eventually return to Alaska in the future, though nothing is guaranteed yet.

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