Monday, November 24, 2014

Recent OU-C alumnus Olivia Muntz blazing an adventurous teaching career trail in Alaska

Bush plans are a common form of transportation for Muntz.

Olivia Muntz is learning the ways of bush Alaska culture and villages.
In addition to the culture change, Muntz is adjusting to life as a classroom teacher.

By public relations student writer Megan Valentine

Recent Ohio University-Chillicothe graduate Olivia Muntz is having anything but a typical first-year teaching experience. Over the summer Muntz, moved across the country to pursue her passion for education in the village of Eek in bush Alaska.

Muntz, a 2014 graduate and middle childhood education major, first learned of the opportunity while attending the Teacher Recruitment Consortium on the Athens campus last April. She met with representatives from several schools in Ohio and out of state, including the Lower Kuskokwim School District in Alaska. Muntz, who graduated from Adena High School, initially expressed her interest in the position out of sheer curiosity. However, she received a packet of additional information and an article written about the experience of teaching in bush Alaska and a spark was lit.

After her initial conversations at the Teacher Recruitment Consortium, Muntz was put in contact with the district’s assistant superintendent and the principal of the school for Skype and phone interviews. She prepared a variety of questions for her interviewers about everything from the curriculum to the wildlife to help her form a better idea of what she would be getting herself into. The entire process spanned over about two weeks before she received an offer, and Muntz decided that this was an opportunity that she couldn’t pass up.

In addition to this position being her first official teaching job, this is the first time that Muntz has moved away from home. She has overcome challenges in both areas in her time in Eek.

“Being away from my family and friends is especially difficult, but I talk on the phone and Skype with them often so that really helps. I have also made new friends and I have become really close with the other teachers. I do miss my family, but I am very grateful for the opportunity I have been given. This is the experience of a lifetime, and they have been here for me every step of the way,” Muntz says of moving so far from home.

In the classroom, she is faced with the responsibility of teaching mathematics, language arts, science, history, health and physical education to a total of 18 students between the ages of 11 and 14, grades ranging from sixth to eighth.

The first-year teacher training sessions Muntz participated in helped prepare her for curriculum, but also touched on some more unique aspects of the bush Alaska experience. On the first day of training they reviewed the Yup’ik culture of the villages, learned a traditional dance, were taught about the subsistence lifestyle in the area and tasted a variety of native foods. The new teachers also learned the importance of non-verbal communication in the villages. For example, an eyebrow raise is often interpreted as “yes.”

“OU-C has an amazing education program with even more outstanding teachers and professors. I feel OU-C truly prepared me with the education I needed to be a great teacher. I gained valuable knowledge through my teaching and content courses, field observations and my professors. I don’t think I could have earned a better education anywhere else and I definitely would not have developed the relationships I did with peers, local schools and professors,” Muntz commented on her experiences on the Chillicothe Campus.

Muntz also added that her academic advisor Karen Corcoran guided her on the right path throughout her time at OU-C and helped to make her experience as smooth as possible.

On her blog, “Teaching Alaska,” Muntz frequently posts updates about life in Eek and expands on many elements of Yup’ik culture in the village. Visit the page to keep up with her adventures:

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