Meghan Redmond said she never wants her students in the Southwest Alaska community of New Stuyahok to feel like they’re missing out on something because of where they’re from.
“I want them to have any opportunity that they want. I want them to have any future that they want, whether that’s staying here or going somewhere else,” Redmond, assistant principal at Chief Ivan Blunka School, said in an interview Friday.
So Redmond plans trips for students, brings in guest speakers and leads the school’s exploration weeks.
For that work and more, Redmond was recently named the 2019 National Assistant Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. In a statement Wednesday, the organization’s executive director, JoAnn Bartoletti, praised Redmond for her leadership and providing “a platform for students to fulfill their greatest potential.”
Redmond was selected from a group of about 50 nominees from across the country. She’s the second assistant principal from Alaska to receive the national distinction in the award’s 25 years. Johanna Naylor from Central Middle School in Anchorage was the 2003 National Assistant Principal of the Year.
This is Redmond’s third school year as the assistant principal at Chief Ivan Blunka School, which enrolls 140 students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in the community about 50 miles northeast of Dillingham.
School principal Robin Jones described Redmond, 34, as resourceful, creative and personable.
“The biggest thing that stands out about Meghan is just how she works tirelessly to ensure that our students have every possible opportunity afforded to them,” Jones said. “Being from rural Alaska, sometimes we’re put in a disadvantaged position and Meghan just won’t let anything get in the way of closing that equity gap."
Redmond has helped raise funds and plan student trips to cities from Juneau to Washington, D.C. She leads the school’s quarterly exploration weeks, a time when students can take elective courses to explore interests from construction to sewing to nursing. Some of the courses lead to industry-based certifications, Jones said.
Redmond said she also focuses on incorporating Yup’ik language and culture into the school day, including though the “Yup’ik Value of the Month” program that she created while teaching in the tiny Southwest Alaska village of Twin Hills.
Under the program, each month students learn to say a value in Yup’ik and participate in activities related to the month’s theme. They’re also recognized for exemplifying the value.
In April, the value is “always trying, never without,” Redmond said.
“So when we see students who are going above and beyond, trying new things, they get recognized for that,” she said.
In addition to being the assistant principal, Redmond is also the school’s guidance counselor, student council adviser and senior class adviser.
“She definitely wears a lot of different hats,” Jones said.
Redmond is originally from Wisconsin, where she earned her bachelor’s degree and later worked as a third-grade teacher. Looking for a change, she said, she accepted a job as a teacher in Twin Hills in 2010. Redmond taught in Twin Hills for six years and started the “Small Schools Matter” campaign in 2015 to keep Alaska’s small schools open.
Redmond now lives in New Stuyahok with her husband and their three children.
She said she sees teacher turnover as the biggest challenge vexing rural schools. In an attempt to combat that, Redmond said, she and her school’s principal try to make the school feel like a family for its teachers and staff, since some are from far away and don’t have relatives in town.
“We plan holiday meals together. We celebrate birthdays and babies,” she said. “If someone goes out on their snowmachine and it breaks down, they know that there’s someone here who can go out and get them."
None of the school’s 34 teachers and staff members left between last school year and the current one, Redmond said. Next school year, the school will have to replace just one teacher, she said.
Redmond will formally receive her award in July during the National Principals Conference in Boston.