By Dr. Ginger Golsan
On the evening of November 21st, the Education Department of Alaska Pacific University held its first Alumni Celebration, where graduates of our programs going as far back as 1980 got together to share memories, teaching experiences and to network with one another. Several of our current graduate students were also in attendance, taking pictures and welcoming guests.
The evening began in the Leah Peterson Gallery of the Carr Gottstein Building where we enjoyed conversation, slides, music and a great spread prepared by APU chef, Chris Pavadore. Afterwards, we moved to the CH2M Hill Boardroom where alumni shared their reflections and experiences, beginning with John Bruce (class of 2002), who was recently named as the “Alaska Teacher of the Year” for 2015 by the State of Alaska Department of Education and Early Development.
Mr. Bruce received his Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Alaska, Anchorage. He left a career in finance and began a second career in teaching 12 years ago, after finishing his Master of Arts in teaching at APU. For the last 10 years, John has been a math teacher at Romig Middle School in Anchorage. John was dynamic, inspirational and gracious, even giving us some of the credit for his award! Of course, we are delighted with his creative teaching, dedication and ability to reach both at-risk and gifted students. You can view some of John’s remarks to alumni and guests on YouTube.
Alumni attending appreciated the opportunity our celebration event provided them to get together with one another and they, too, were eager to share with the group. One alum said a favorite memory was “getting into the classroom right away and learning to teach both in the university classroom and the school.” One raved about her time in Chiniak doing a rural practicum with the National Teacher of the Year, while another shared about her service learning project, the value of her many practicum hours and the enriched learning because of her strong cohort. A current host teacher said, “It is amazing returning to campus seeing faculty who gave so much to me. Now, I can give back to the profession.”
After alumni had the opportunity to speak, we shared current developments in Education programs at APU and then returned to the Peterson Gallery for more conversation.
It was a great evening and I think our goals to give our graduates the opportunity to reconnect, share their experiences, reflect on the positive aspects of their teacher preparation, network with colleagues, faculty and President Bantz, and learn about new programs in Education at APU were accomplished. Many of our alums said that they hoped we would do an event like this again! I know I was energized by the great memories of how APU impacted careers and personal growth. Most importantly, we learned about the positive impact our graduates have on students in K-8 education!
Thanks again to everyone and especially the Alumni Celebration event committee: Dr. John Butler, Sarah Gotschall, Bonnie Moore, Becky More, Mary Wood, and Kate Miller. Dr. Ann McCoy and Karen McCain also contributed many helpful ideas! Thanks to Chris Pavadore for the beautiful, delicious food, and to Steve Hunt and crew for setting up. It took all of us working hard together to make this event a success.
Best wishes for a great holiday season!