PUBLISHED: 4:24 PM on Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Juneau-Douglas graduate returns to teach students
Brightly colored self-portraits cover the doors of student lockers in MaryAnn Moffet's first grade classroom. Happy faces peer out of crayon sketches showing the excitement of the first days of school for a new generation of promising young students. Moffet remembers what is like to be a Juneau student, not so long ago, she was one of these bright faces.

Moffet is Mendenhall River Community School's newest classroom teacher, hired last June to help instruct the school's swelling population of primary students. Her brightly decorated classroom looks like others, but Moffet brings a special touch to her lessons, personal experience growing up in Juneau.

"I moved here in the fourth grade," Moffet said. "I'm from Washington originally. I went to Auke Bay School. Mrs. Gleason was my teacher. Then I attended DZ for middle school and graduated from Juneau Douglas High School in 2000."

Even as an elementary school student, Moffet knew she wanted to be a teacher. "My parents set up a classroom in our house, and I taught my stuffed animals," she said. While attending Central Washington University, where she majored in elementary education with a focus on reading, she dreamed of coming back to Juneau.

Photo by Amy Steffian
  MaryAnn Moffet reads with first-grader Elizabeth Haleakala.
It took Moffet a few years and a couple of big detours to realize her goal. Her first teaching assignment was in Crooked Creek Village, a rural community on Alaska's Lower Kuskokwim River. She was hired to teach elementary students, but was reassigned to middle school classes on her arrival. "I ended up with a homeroom, and teaching social studies and reading to all of the children."

Then last year, she taught first grade at Dartmouth Elementary School in Aurora, Colo.

"Working in a big city was different," she said. " When it rained, everyone carried umbrellas and the student's didn't go outside to play. We don't do that here!"

Moffet values these years. She knows they helped her grow.

"Although I enjoyed my experiences in different communities, I'm very glad to be back in Juneau with my family, and in my hometown." These experiences also illustrated the strengths of Juneau, where parent involvement and a family atmosphere are helping to make strong schools.

Although the school year has just started, Moffet is already proud of her first graders. "I have a polite class; they care about each other. You need to have that good sense of community before you can really start learning."

Who knows, maybe one of Moffet's young pupils will be teaching the next generation of Juneau students in the not too distant future.