Home Natalie Britton: Live Teach Alaska A New Home in Newhalen

A New Home in Newhalen

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Alaska has been more a mysterious concept than a place to me since I was a little girl. Although I grew up in scenic Seattle, I always regarded Alaska with an unequaled sense of wonder. I recalled the Eskimos, bears, glaciers, and snowcapped mountain ranges that I’d seen in books and on television and thought to myself, “If only I could be a part of it!”
And so, years later as a young woman, I found myself packing up to teach for my first year in bush Alaska. Last year, my husband and I were teaching in Busan, South Korea, and decided to turn the dream of living in Alaska into a reality. I researched online, asked lots of questions, and soon discovered the Lake and Peninsula School District in southwestern Alaska. Lake and Peninsula Borough seemed perfect due to its temperate weather, mountainous landscape, and abundant wildlife. After a lot of paperwork and a successful series of interviews, I signed my contract and became a kindergarten teacher at Newhalen School.
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Newhalen rests on the north shore of Iliamna Lake and is home to approximately 200 people. About 90% of the population is Native American, most being of Yupik heritage. The economy is driven by subsistence and sport fishing and recently by the development of the highly controversial proposed Pebble Mine. Newhalen is also smack dab in the middle of Grizzly country; bears outnumber people.
When I first stepped off the little bush plane that escorted me to Newhalen, apart from feeling quite nauseous from motion sickness, I was astounded by what I saw. Everywhere I looked, the great, spruce-covered land convened in the distance with majestic mountains. I took a breath of the purest air I’d ever tasted and sighed, “Home.”
And home is quickly what Newhalen has become. In three short weeks, I have settled into a little apartment, jump-started a kindergarten class, made many new friends, shuffle danced at a community gathering, attended a potluck, gone blueberry picking, and caught my first grayling. This little village is quickly growing on me. Dare I say I’m becoming attached?
The other day, a friend called me a “wilderness girl.” I laughed, because I’m pretty much anything but. I’m scared to hold a gun and squirm at the sight of taxidermy mounts. However, I’m excited to see how this year changes me. Here’s to a year of thrills and adventure!
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Read more at Natalie’s blog: Live Teach Alaska.

1 COMMENT

  1. God’s Country!!! I came up from Wisconsin in the late 80s to teach in Homer. My brother came up and taught at Sidney C. Huntington in Galena. He never left. Neither did I. LOL! Alaska is quite an adventure and usually lasts longer than we expect!!!

  2. It sounds like you’re adjusting quickly! I moved up to Anchorage, Alaska without a whole lot of preparation and it still took me a little time to feel like I had made the right decision. I think it was my first drive down to Homer to go halibut fishing that sealed Alaska as “home” for me. Welcome to our great state and I look forward to hearing more about your time in Newhalen 🙂

  3. Introduce yourself by showing us a picture of you catching a fish. Well played, Ms. Britton, you learned how to win us over. 🙂