An Auke Bay Elementary School educator is one of three finalists for the 2020 Alaska Teacher of the Year.
Pam Garcia, a special education resource teacher, has worked for Juneau School District for more than 20 years. Over the years, Garcia has been a paraeducator, a first-, second-, fourth- and fifth-grade teacher and an instructional coach for kindergarten through fifth-grade teachers, according to a release from the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development.
“It’s a huge honor,” Garcia said Tuesday in a phone interview. “I want to be a positive representative and role model for all teachers.”
Juneau School District Superintendent Bridget Weiss spoke highly of Garcia, saying she is “tenacious about student achievement.”
“She really has contributed greatly to our work around student achievement,” Weiss said. “Pam definitely exudes compassion and expertise. She’s not only a really good teacher, she’s an amazing colleague.”
The other two finalists for Alaska Teacher of the Year are Amy Gallaway, of West Valley High School in Fairbanks, and Ben Griese, of Chief Ivan Blunka School in New Stuyahok.
The Teacher of the Year is typically selected by early October, said program coordinator Cecilia Miller.
Now, the finalists will be interviewed by a committee comprised of members of major Alaska educational associations as well as Alaska’s 2019 Teacher of the Year Danielle Riha. The committee considers a written application, a video snapshot of the teacher in the classroom and an interview. The committee will recommend a 2020 Alaska Teacher of the Year and an alternate to Alaska Education Commissioner Michael Johnson.
Once selected, the Alaska Teacher of the Year may be called upon to speak at education conferences and participate in various statewide education working groups. The teacher is the Alaska nominee for National Teacher of the Year and serves as a member of Commissioner Johnson’s Teacher Advisory Council. There’s no financial reward for winning.
The last time an Alaska Teacher of the Year hailed from Juneau was in 2016 when Amy Jo Meiners of Auke Bay and Riverbend elementary schools won. Lorrie Heagy, a Glacier Valley Elementary School teacher, was the 2011 Alaska State Teacher of the Year.
On Tuesday, Garcia said in her Teacher of the Year application — educators are first nominated for the award, then must submit applications including essays — she wrote about the importance of working for equity in education.
“I am strongly motivated to narrow gaps in student learning and have pursued this goal through my various roles,” she said.
Garcia has also been an adjunct instructor for University of Alaska Southeast, a national staff developer for Advancement Via Individual Determination, an instructor for the after-school Leading Educational Access Project, co-president of the Juneau/Haines Reading Council, a regional representative for the Alaska Council of Teachers of Mathematics and a statewide instructor for both Alaska Basic Math Institutes and Alaska Seas and Rivers Curriculum, according to DEED.
“I like challenges,” Garcia said. “I am constantly looking for the next challenge once I get something down.”