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From an intense six weeks spent in Juneau last summer, to an intensive year student teaching in the classroom; I have learned and grown so much through this program.

2016 Outstanding Graduate

Master of Arts in Teaching, Secondary Education

Michelle I. Snyder

My UAS Experience

Quyana cakneq. I am honored and humbled to receive this recognition. What a journey it has been! From an intense six weeks spent in Juneau last summer, to an intensive year student teaching in the classroom; I have learned and grown so much through this program. My desire to be a teacher stems from a desire to help the people in the region where I grew up. Alaska needs indigenous educators. Cultural and traditional knowledge must be incorporated in the classroom. This conviction has driven me, from applying to this program, through my year of student teaching, and through all the hours spent on my graduate courses. This year I have been student teaching in my hometown of Dillingham. As Dillingham has a relatively small high school, I have taught a number of subjects: U.S. History, Economics, Sociology, and Creative Writing. In all of these classes I found a variety of ways to incorporate cultural standards and traditional knowledge; from using Yup’ik dance as a basis for a guided imagery activity to generate creative writing, to including experiences of Alaska Natives in a unit on Civil Rights.

This year, I have also had the amazing opportunity of teaching a Yup’ik Language course. During my first semester of student teaching, I had been surprised to find that Yup’ik language was not offered at Dillingham High School. This was a class that I felt needed to be offered. Though I do not speak Yup’ik fluently, I decided I wanted to try and teach what I could. I asked and was granted permission to teach a Yup’ik language course during my spring semester. It has been a difficult and rewarding experience. With few resources available for Yup’ik language, I have had to be innovative and creative in my methods of instruction. I even partnered with an elementary school teacher to bring my students down to her first grade classroom, so my students could teach her class basic Yup’ik words as well as songs and dances. We have also started to include a Yup’ik word of the day in the morning announcements, and my class has been asked to perform for events like the opening ceremony of the regional NYO games. It has been so encouraging to see students proudly speaking in Yup’ik and performing dances for the community and for their peers.

Thank you to all of the faculty and all of my classmates who have been so supportive this year. I don’t know if I would have survived without you.

Quyana. Tua-ingunrituq.

About Michelle I. Snyder

From the moment she first spoke in the Multicultural Education class, the initial class session of the FY 16 UAS Secondary MAT program, it was apparent that Michelle Snyder was on her way to becoming a truly exemplary teacher. She spoke with passion about what it felt like to her, an indigenous student, to sit silently in a class discussing the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. She vowed to be a different kind of history teacher, one who helps students view historical events from multiple perspectives. Her words instantly turned the discourse in the multicultural education class, allowing students to deeply examine how their own beliefs might influence curriculum and teaching decisions.

Fast forward to spring semester 2016. Michelle Snyder will soon be graduating with her Master of Arts in Teaching with endorsements in history and English language arts. Snyder is living up to the vow she made; she regularly incorporates primary source documents into her history lessons and she engages her mostly Yupik students in discussions that demand critical thinking. Her US history unit on WWII included a detailed segment on the Japanese occupation of the Aleutian Islands – instantly capturing the attention of her Dillingham students, many of whom have relatives with memories of that turbulent time. Snyder embraces the Alaska Standards for Culturally Responsive Schools and knows the importance of connecting lessons to students’ background knowledge. She seamlessly weaves Yupik language and culture into her lessons. She is the epitome of a culturally responsive teacher.

Her coursework throughout the program has been exemplary. She has earned a 4.0 GPA and we’re confident that she will graduate at the same level. Academically and professionally, she is a leader in the secondary MAT program.

  • Scott Christian, MAT Secondary Program Coordinator
[Michelle] vowed to be a different kind of history teacher, one who helps students view historical events from multiple perspectives.
  • Scott Christian, MAT Secondary Program Coordinator