Living and working in the Alaskan Bush for the past two years has been an incredible journey that has shaped my perspective and enriched my life. As someone who grew up in Massachusetts and had the opportunity to live in various places, I never could have predicted that I would find myself in this remote part of the world.
Prior to 2020, I had plans to move to the Dominican Republic after teaching in Germany for some time. However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted those plans and forced me to reevaluate my options. That’s when I came across a teaching position in Alaska through the job search platform, Indeed. Without hesitation, I accepted the opportunity and embarked on a new adventure in the Alaskan Bush.
My village, Perryville, is located on the Ring of Fire, which is the rim of the Pacific Ocean where the occurrence of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes is prevalent. It is important to note that the land belongs to the Alutiiq/Sugpiaq people, who have a rich cultural heritage in this region.
Being in the Alaskan Bush means living in areas that are not accessible by the road system. Perryville, for instance, is approximately three hours away from Anchorage by plane and is home to only 89 residents. Despite the isolation, the experience is truly unique and unlike anything I have ever encountered.
Living in this remote area comes with its challenges, including the high cost of living. However, the school district in which I teach pays a higher salary compared to districts on the road system, and they also provide assistance with airfare to and from Anchorage. As a result, I am able to make $10,000 to $15,000 more annually than I would if I were teaching in the Lower 48.
As a secondary generalist teacher, I am responsible for teaching all subjects to grades eight and up. This year, I have a small class consisting of only five students, which allows me to provide more individualized attention and foster stronger relationships with each student. It is a truly rewarding experience to be able to spend quality time with my students.
Teaching multiple grades and subjects simultaneously presents its own set of challenges, but it also allows me the flexibility to choose curricula and materials that are culturally responsive and relevant to my students. To engage them, I often implement interdisciplinary teaching methods. For example, as part of a unit on art around the world, my students and I completed paintings in the style of George Seurat’s Pointillism.
Living arrangements in the Alaskan Bush are unique as well. I reside in a large house that is divided into four two-bedroom apartments, with each apartment occupied by a teacher from my school. This setup fosters a close-knit community among the teachers and provides opportunities for collaboration and support.
The proximity of my house to the school is incredibly convenient, with just a three-minute walk separating the two. I usually arrive at school between 6:30 and 7 a.m. As there is no principal in our village, I also take on administrative duties such as picking up people and freight from incoming planes. This includes ordering groceries, as this is the primary method for obtaining supplies in our remote location.
After a long day at school, I make it a point to get outside and enjoy the natural beauty that surrounds me. Whether it’s going for a run or exploring the beach, being in nature rejuvenates me and allows me to appreciate the wonders of the Alaskan Bush. In fact, there are two places I particularly love to visit – our tsunami shelter and the beach. The tsunami shelter is our designated safe space in the event of a tsunami warning, and it offers a stunning view of our village.
Living in such a remote area has also compelled me to become resourceful when it comes to cooking and baking. With limited access to fresh produce, I rely on pantry ingredients and sturdy fruits and vegetables. As a vegetarian, lentils, beans, and root vegetables have become staples in my kitchen. I enjoy exploring different recipes and spending quality time preparing meals each evening.
Subsistence living is prevalent in the region, and although I don’t hunt, I do engage in activities such as berry picking during the summer and fall. It allows me to connect with the land and appreciate the bounties it provides. Additionally, the unique lighting conditions in Alaska afford me the opportunity to witness breathtaking sunrises and sunsets, particularly during the winter months when the sun is scarce.
In the evenings, before I retire for the night, I make it a habit to read for at least 30 minutes. It helps me unwind and relax. As a lover of beach books, I enjoy light and easy-to-read novels that transport me to different worlds before I drift off to sleep.
Living in the Alaskan Bush has allowed me to create a life that is vastly different from anything I have experienced before. It has taught me to be adaptable, resilient, and to appreciate the simple yet extraordinary aspects of life. I am grateful for the warm and accepting community that I have become a part of, and I cherish the daily opportunities that arise in this unique place I now call home. Every day, I am awestruck by the beauty that surrounds me and the incredible journey that led me here.