Story last updated at 1/23/2014 - 11:34 am
Harborview kindergarten teacher Joshua Jackson makes managing a classroom of 20 five-year-olds look easy.
On a recent day, the words on the board for "Walk to Read," the name of a Juneau elementary school program that gathers students at a similar reading level from several different kindergarten classes, were "big," "bin," "a" and "is."
Led by "Mr. Josh," the students spent time rearranging letters to form words, and words to form a sentence: "A bin is big." Then they tried it on their own - a scene with kindergartener-friendly scissors, glue sticks, paper and lots of individual attention.
Jackson is in his seventh year teaching kindergarten at Harborview, including his year as a student teacher. It's an age he loves.
"They're very excited about learning and being in school," he said. "For this age group, it's always 'I can.' ... I just love that."
Jackson got his Bachelors in Education from the University of Alaska Southeast. Initially, while he was attending the University of Alaska Fairbanks, he thought he might get a business administration degree.
"I think 'How silly!' now," he said. "My love has always been with kids."
While he spends each day in the classroom, he hasn't left education behind as a student, either.
After getting his B.A. he took a two-year break from school. Then he went back to get his Master of Education in reading - Reading Specialist, a two-year degree. When he was finishing that up, he applied to get his Master of Education in Mathematics Education, a program he completed in December.
He wanted to better understand how different students learn, and to be able to teach them reading more effectively, he said.
"Looking at it from various perspectives has taught me to really break down the reading components kids need to learn," he said. "It's the same with math. How can I better teach it? How can I better reach various students?"
He and his wife, Mischa Jackson, have an 11-month-old baby, so when he finished up his most recent degree, he thought "Oh, I'm done, this is great," he said. "Family time."
Then he heard about a three-year Tlingit language apprenticeship program put together by Sealaska Heritage Institute. He'd been thinking about delving more into the Tlingit language, for himself, for his daughter and for the kids he teaches. He uses some words in the classroom already.
"I grew up within it and surrounded by it, but I'm certainly not fluent," he said. "I'm very excited about [the program]."
Jackson was raised in Kake, a place he tries to go back as often as possible to visit. When he was growing up, his mother was working as a substitute. She started out as an education volunteer with Headstart, where his older brothers went, and always encouraged him to read. Now, she's teaching kindergarten in Kake.
"We collaborate and share ideas," he said. "It's been a lot of fun."
Right now, Jackson teaches Tlingit through song, counting, and commands.
"I might tell them to line up and ask them if they're ready in Tlingit," he said. "I give them the question, tell them how to answer me, and we continue to practice throughout the year."
Harborview Language Specialist Jessica Chester and elders who come to the school are very helpful in filling in any blanks, he said.
"They [elders] are very patient - just wonderful people," he said. "They might correct you, but it's just part of them teaching."
Contact CCW staff writer Mary Catharine Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org.