OPINION: University of Alaska schools of education provide quality, accessible pathways for aspiring teachers

Education is the cornerstone of a thriving society. It empowers individuals, transforms communities, and shapes the future. At the heart of this transformative process are dedicated teachers who ignite the flame of knowledge, instill a love for learning, and guide the next generation toward their full potential.

Are you passionate about becoming a teacher but need help figuring out where to start? Look only as far as the University of Alaska system — visit Teach Alaska to explore options — which offers a range of pathways to help you become certified. With the introduction of the UA Teacher Internship Scholarship, pursuing your degree in education has never been more affordable.

The UA Teacher Internship Scholarship is part of the Alaska College of Education Consortium’s commitment to providing Alaskans with accessible routes to becoming teachers. Across the nation, teacher preparation programs and state policies are evolving to support aspiring teachers by offering financial compensation during their internships.

At the core of all UA initial licensure pathways is a supervised internship experience. However, many prospective teacher candidates need help when they realize that a full-time internship requires stepping down from their current job, full or part-time. Committing to a year of training means assuming the financial burden of tuition and fees, along with the absence of a salary and benefits. This quickly becomes an insurmountable obstacle.

The new internship scholarship program addresses both of these barriers. In its inaugural year, the program awarded $1.3 million to 75 Alaska teacher candidates within their final 30-60 credits of preparation. This includes undergraduates in initial licensure programs at UAA, UAF, or UAS, as well as graduate candidates who hold a bachelor’s degree in a field other than education and seek certification through a post-baccalaureate pathway. The scholarship application period for the 2024-25 school year will open in January.

Recipients of the scholarship receive complete coverage of tuition and fees at UA Schools of Education, along with a stipend of up to $10,000 to assist with living expenses during their internship. This spring, recipients were notified of their awards, and some candidates have already commenced their training through summer courses.

The U.S. Department of Labor has recently acknowledged teaching as an apprenticeable profession, emphasizing the importance of on-the-job training for teachers. Research supports the notion that a year-long internship with a qualified teacher of record improves K-12 student outcomes and increases the likelihood that the individual will remain in the teaching profession.


A teaching internship is far from passive observation of a classroom — it is a full-time job. Most of an intern’s time is spent in a mentor’s K-12 classroom, gradually assuming teacher responsibilities. This hands-on experience is supplemented with university courses that teach instructional strategies, opportunities to share observations with peers in different schools, and preparation of strategies to implement in the classroom.

Many UA education programs incorporate a full year of student teaching, ensuring that candidates experience the complete spectrum of classroom management and curricular scope from the first day to the last. Interns become fully immersed in their school’s culture, practicing communication strategies with parents, designing and delivering lessons, differentiating assessments, witnessing students’ growth, and developing their educational philosophy and materials to bring into their future classrooms.

During their internship, candidates are observed by their mentor teacher and a university-assigned supervisor, who provide valuable coaching on areas for improvement. This dual observation structure combines the benefits of university training and local school district experience.

Why choose this model? We firmly believe that Alaska’s students deserve well-prepared teachers from day one, and aspiring teachers deserve the training necessary to thrive during that notoriously challenging first year. Affordable, high-quality, internship-based teacher certification programs improve retention and reduce turnover in Alaska’s school districts.

Teaching is a multifaceted profession that requires the gradual acquisition of skills, knowledge, and a deep understanding of the science of teaching and learning. We are committed to preparing Alaskan teachers to confidently enter the classroom, armed with a comprehensive knowledge of their districts and students.

UA’s teacher education programs are designed to meet students where they are, with online program delivery options and a vast network across Alaska. UA’s placement coordinators are dedicated to working with any district in the state to secure an appropriate classroom apprenticeship placement. Interns are paired with approved mentor teachers who hold certification in the field the candidates are pursuing and possess extensive classroom experience.

We must ensure every Alaskan who aspires to become a teacher has the resources to pursue their dreams. By investing in the preparation and certification of local Alaskans who possess an intimate understanding of their communities and a commitment to staying, we can achieve long-term workforce stability.

We are grateful for the support and generosity of University of Alaska President Pat Pitney, Gov. Dunleavy, and the Alaska Legislature, who recognize the importance of investing in the future of Alaska’s education system. Their commitment to education is evident in their provision of substantial financial support to the scholarship fund. Through their vision and foresight, aspiring teachers in Alaska can access the resources they need to pursue their dreams.

The next generation of Alaska’s teachers is right in front of us. Will you be one of them?

Amy Vinlove is dean of the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Education.

Carlee Simon is interim dean of the University of Alaska Southeast School of Education.

Tonia Dousay is dean of the University of Alaska Anchorage School of Education.

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