By Aaron Tooyak
John Yakanak (’16) is among APU’s newest graduates. John graduated with his bachelor’s in Counseling Psychology with a minor in Liberal Studies, “I’m still electrified over it”, exclaimed in happiness. John plans to pursue his master’s degree in our very own Masters in Counseling Psychology Program (MSCP) upon completion of a summer internship at the Covenant House via the First Alaskan’s Institute (FAI) – where he will immediately apply what he has learned.
John was nominated by FAI as a “community doer” by starting language groups on our Anchorage university campus. He has been teaching the Koniag dialect of the Sugt’stun (Sugpiaq) language to K-12 students in Tatitlek and Chenega in a long-distance, online format – utilizing our Academic Support Center’s on site resources of a video camera and white board.
His position as a language teacher is part of a revitalization project for the Chenega Corporation to re-learn and educate students on their original tongue. “Teaching the class can be challenging at times”, he admitted, “but it allows me to learn with them and be creative with my teaching style”. John had wide grin as he mentioned how the students he has been teaching hosted their own language lessons and presentations to their village communities, “the kids surprised me. Hearing how the students took their own initiative like that was the most rewarding moment of my teaching career so far”. Recently in March, John visited his students for a week to teach and engage with the students in person.
John began to explain how he never saw himself as a teacher before coming to APU, “before being immersed into APU’s active learning culture, I would be that student sitting at the back of the class. But now I’m in front of the class teaching others”. When asked about how APU curriculum develops one’s ability to present and speak in public with confidence, John’s commentary of self-development and personal growth became evident and inspirational.
John has been the fortunate recipient of several APU donor scholarships because of his various academic achievements. “Giving back to a private school helps other students like myself gain access to the small, close knit and caring community of professors available only here. Building those relationships helped me thrive and flourish as a student”.