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MAT Graduate Alumni Pursuing Global Opportunities


My name is Matt LeGassick. I live and work in beautiful Juneau, Alaska. I’m married, and my wife and I have two amazing children. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California where I completed my undergraduate studies at UCLA in 1990. Upon graduating I decided to depart the city life and look for adventure in the great outdoors. I ended up in Dutch Harbor, Alaska working with the National Marine Fisheries Service for four years. It was there I had my first experiences in the classroom when I occasionally substitute taught. I enjoyed teaching and decided to apply for the Masters of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program at UAS in 1994. This was the first year of the MAT program, and it has grown considerably over the past ten years. That first year we had 14 students complete the program. Now there are approximately 40 MAT graduates each year. The MAT program was a great fit for me as it combined graduate courses with on the job training in a one-year internship.

In 1995, after graduating from the MAT program, I accepted my first teaching job in Holy Cross, Alaska. This small town is part of the Iditarod School District, located on the lower Yukon River. I was hired on as the only high school teacher. It was an eye-opening adventure! It was also a tremendous learning opportunity for me as it provided me with first hand experience of Alaskan Native culture and ways of learning.

In 1996 I came back to Juneau and was hired at Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School where I had completed my internship in the MAT program. For the next four years I enjoyed teaching math and science to 7th and 8th graders. In the summer of 2000 my wife and I pursued our dream to live and teach in another country. We accepted a teaching exchange position in Nishiokoppe, Japan. For two years we taught English to grades K-12 and adult classes in Northern Hokkaido. Our adventure in Japan continued with the birth of our first child; our son Parker. Experiencing a different country, culture and educational system was an enlightening journey. We plan to move abroad again with our family to continue to broaden our life experiences.

Two years after returning to Juneau I was offered the Assistant Principal position at Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School. After seven years of experience in the building I felt it was the perfect opportunity to move into administration. This is my second year working as an administrator and I enjoy helping lead our school, as well as the challenges this position brings. There is never a dull moment and no two days are alike! Interestingly enough, when I was asked to do this article I discovered that my colleague, Barb Mecum, had also graduated from the MAT program is now the Principal here at Dzantik’i Heeni.

During the summer I am fortunate to spend my time working with Alaska Native students in an academic camp setting. This summer will be my 5th year working for ANSWER Camp through the Southeast Regional Resource Center. In 1998 I started teaching at ANSWER Camp. In 2003 I took the position as Camp Coordinator. This camp is a culturally based math, science and literacy camp for rural Alaska Native middle school students from all over the state. Over the years we have taught everything from: How do plants impact the quality of our lives? To, How do traditional methods of food preparation make food safe to eat? ANSWER Camp is one of the most successful educational programs I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of.

In looking back on my journey it’s clear to me that I owe a great deal of my career experiences and successes to the opportunities the MAT program provided me. I will continue to utilize my MAT degree and teaching certificate to guide my career path and reach my goals whether it is here in Juneau, or across the globe.