In Alaska schools, Alaska Natives make up 25 percent of the student body, but less than 5 percent of the teaching force. PITAAS—Preparing Indigenous Teachers and Administrators for Alaska Schools—is a scholarship program offered at the University of Alaska Southeast which is designed to train more Alaska Native teachers and administrators in Alaskan schools.
“What inspired me to go and become a teacher was knowing that we had so many teachers that leave,” says Heather Dickens, a PITAAS student, in a video by the Sealaska Heritage Institute.
The program was created in 2000 with the help of a federal grant in order to address the shortage of Alaska Native teachers, and it has grown to include a number of services designed to train more teachers.
“The reason I wanted to get into education was so that I could be there for the kids that are feeling like they are on their way out,” said Jasper Nelson in a PITAAS video. He said he chose the program because it’s not a typical scholarship program. “They are with you 100 percent of the way. They give you an opportunity to succeed.
Students accepted into the program receive a scholarship that generally covers tuition, fees, books, and room and board at the University of Alaska Southeast for the full program period. Students must be enrolled at UAS, have a minimum 2.5 GPA upon entry and maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA to continue receiving the scholarship.
“The best part about being an educator for me is being a role model for others to see, and empowering our youth,” said Josh Jackson in a video, who earned his master’s through the PITAAS program. “It’s a very, very rewarding experience and a very rewarding job.”