How We Ended Up In Alaska


This is us eleven years ago.  I was substitute teaching in my Idaho hometown.  Steve was six hundred heart-breaking miles away in Seattle doing his student teaching.To truly appreciate the aging process, here is a photo of us summer 2016 (thanks to my amazing sister-in-law for taking the photo!):


But, back to eleven years ago:


We were young.  We were engaged.  We were looking for jobs.

Enter Colleen:

Colleen- the reason we're in Alaska!

Colleen was a friend of mine at BYU-Idaho.  We took political science classes together.  Colleen was also a friend of Steve's.  They worked together at the campus Lost and Found.

Colleen had graduated a semester before me and went up to Alaska to teach in an Inupiaq Eskimo village.  I thought she was crazy.

Steve and Colleen were instant messaging (remember that?), and Colleen told us her school had two openings for the next year.

Thus initiated obsessive Internet research and relentless e-mail exchanges with Colleen.  I calculated food prices (high) and compared them with the school district salary scale (also high).  I priced plane tickets (available).  I asked about plumbing (almost non-existent).

The more we looked into it, the less crazy Colleen seemed.  It sounded kind of exciting!  And the pay was much higher than Idaho!

After much deliberation and prayer, we decided we were interested.  I cold-called the principal (while managing to mispronounce Colleen's first AND last names- smooth!), we sent in our resumes, and forty-eight hours later we had signed contracts to teach in Shishmaref, Alaska.

Neither of us had ever set foot in Alaska.  We knew nothing about the Inupiaq people we would be living and working among.

The next few months were a blur of wedding preparations, securing Alaska teaching certificates, and packing everything we owned into storage at Steve's parents' house (Hey Mom and Dad Alston!  Thanks for letting us take over your storage for a decade!).

We survived the summer and headed up to Alaska in August 2005.  We stopped in Anchorage for a day to stock up on supplies.  You can watch some footage of our journey north (many thanks to Stephen Carter for the amazing footage and editing!):

Our one-year adventure turned into real life, and we are beginning our twelfth school year in Alaska.  I wouldn't have it any other way.


  1. Colleen says:

    I can’t believe it’s been 12 years. Steve looked like a baby back then, which is odd, because it didn’t seem that way when we were in school. I’m glad you came up.

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