PUBLISHED: 4:50 PM on Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Good news about teachers and business
Where have all the good teachers gone?

The recurring debate on education eventually always comes back to who's leading the charge in the class room, and how do we keep the good ones.

The good news about good teachers is that a lot of them are right here in Juneau and Southeast Alaska. You need look no further than this week's group of elementary students from Juneau's Glacier Valley Elementary, headed to the Kennedy Center to gather first-ever honors for an Alaska school, to see something good is happening here.

Yes, the kids are performing a great play, blending Native legend and Shakespeare.

But the honors are not for that one performance, but for the five years of teachers and parents working together, to introduce our kids to the fine arts (from music to ballroom dance).

This incredible program that began with a dedicated teacher and a great idea - to bring the arts and appreciation of the arts into the schools, without waiting for a mandate from on high to make it happen.

And it's changing everything for these kids. Attendance is up, discipline problems are down, self respect and respect for each other are off the chart.

That kind of success story begins with teachers.

Most of us, at some point in our lives, were blessed with a teacher who found as way to light the spark that set us on the path for the rest of our lives. More than instructor, more than teacher, they were mentor, coach, confidant, maybe even surrogate parent. And they made all the difference.

Teaching is a tough job, offering long hours, mediocre to down-right lousy pay, no fast-track to the perks of management, and a growing list of responsibilities that include everything from mental health to drug counseling.

But I defy you to watch those youngsters performing the Tide and the Tempest and not get choked up. And feel inspired once again to do more, to be more of a teacher.

There was lots of cautious optimism at last weekend's Home Show in Juneau. Local builders, bankers, even bakers, are sensing that Down South's economic concerns (might I say abject terror) don't really apply to Juneau and the Southeast. And that we've got more good than bad happening in our local economies.

The biggest threat to our economy is not interest rates or government action or even the environment. It's attitude.

Nothing succeeds like success, and nothing fails faster than those who expect it. It's very possible for a community expecting problems to make that a self-fulfilling prophesy, by acting that way.

Yes, there will be economic challenges in the coming year. Just as there are challenges in life, it's how we face them that define us.

Our local economy is very different from that of communities Down South. It's also much more stable and vibrant. Whether it stays that way has a lot to do with how we choose to live-with confidence and commitment, or in fear.

In today's Capital City Weekly you'll find two special expanded sections on great events coming in the next week.

The first is the annual Glacier Valley Rotary Boat Show, which runs March 14-16 and marks the unofficial beginning of spring. Even if you have no intention of buying a boat (and what are you doing living here if you don't at least dream of your own hole in the water?), it's a great place to plan for the coming season.

The second is our annual program for the Gold Medal Basketball Tournament, which opens Sunday in Juneau and all next week brings together teams, friends and families from throughout Southeast Alaska to face off on the court, and renew old acquaintances during the week.

We hope you enjoy the expanded look at the week's games as well as the heritage of the event, prepared by Juneau Empire sports editor Tim Nichols and the Empire and CCW staffs.

You may have noticed a new name and face in your Cap City Weekly. Charles Westmoreland joined us as our new managing editor. Charles comes to Juneau from Kentucky, with solid journalistic credentials and an appetite for new challenges, of which we offer plenty.

Charles is the latest player in the evolution and growth of your weekly newspaper over the past three years, to provide more of the news you want about your community.

His assignment is simple: Go forth and tell the stories of Southeast Alaska. Be sure to share yours with him soon.

Lee Leschper is general manager of the Capital City Weekly and advertising director of the Juneau Empire. Email him at