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April 7, 2021 / This week from The Signal

All the latest news and information from around Alaska.

Last week marked 48 years since the last U.S. combat troops left Vietnam. Wrangell’s Johnson-O’Malley Kaats’litaan Dancers joined a virtual event to honor veterans of the Vietnam War (Photo and story by Sage Smiley / KSTK).

But first… 

We have this thing in news called the Friday surprise. It’s big-deal news that you have to work feverishly to get out before the weekend, when no one will pick up the phone to answer questions. Last week's Friday surprise was that some Juneau elementary school students are returning to in-person classes and all-day learning.

I think we’ve all been aching for a return to normalcy, and this feels like a step in that direction. One parent, Sanjay Pyare, told KTOO's Pablo Peña that remote learning was exhausting for his kids. 

“It’s going to be a lot more effective for the teacher,” he said. “And for the teacher to go back and ask questions zero in on students and whatnot, and how much they’re picking up.”

But I can’t stop thinking about the teachers I know. We’ve asked a lot of our teachers this year. This surprise return to nearly full-time, in-person learning is just one more thing they’ve had to adjust to on the fly. And it’s not going to be easy.

A teacher friend tells me that before the pandemic, she would have had parent volunteers to help — but they’re not allowed in the schools right now. So teachers are on their own trying to keep kids physically apart while keeping them engaged and helping them regain the stamina they need for in-person school. 

It’s a triage situation. She’s already exhausted, and she’s not the only one. I’m not a teacher, so I asked around. What I heard back is that teachers could use a few things from us. 

One is classroom supplies. A lot of teachers gutted their classrooms at the start of the pandemic, sending whatever they could home to families that needed help setting their kids up at home. So now teachers need enough supplies to give each kid a personal stash — no more community box of markers or crayons.

The other is validation. Tell your kid’s teachers that you see them. Tell them you know this year has been just as impossible for them as it has been for us — that we are all in this together, and we’re here for them as they guide our kids into whatever happens next. 

If you have a story about teaching or learning this year, we’d love to hear it. You can reply to this email or send a news tip using our contact form.

-- Rashah McChesney, KTOO Daily News Editor

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A giant, artificial igloo marks the halfway point between Fairbanks and Anchorage along the Parks Highway. It was supposed to be a roadside hotel, but it never opened for business. Field producer Emily Schwing has more.

KTOO Public Media would like to acknowledge the L'eeneidí and the Wooshkeetaan of the Áak’w Khwáan. Our broadcast studios are on their ancestral homeland. Our building sits on fill that was once tideland and part of what is called the Indian Village. The families of the Juneau Indian Village, like their ancestors, cherish and depend upon their immediate connection to the waterfront. KTOO is working to lift up Tlingit voices and the Tlingit language. Please excuse us for our mistakes, and gunalchéesh for your patience as we learn.

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What are you waiting for? For an entertaining inside take on the biggest news in Alaska, try The Signal – just enter your email to get the latest edition delivered every week - it's free, we keep your email safe, and you can easily unsubscribe any time.