Thursday, July 29

I’m a teacher in a tiny Alaskan village. My class consists of 8 students and there are no sports teams or after-school clubs — here’s what my life is like.


  • Taryn Williams, 28, is a teacher and freelance writer based in the rural Alaskan Bush.
  • Everything is really close by, but groceries cost more than they do in mainland US.
  • She spends an hour cooking dinner and stays entertained by participating in local customs.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

One of the greatest benefits of life in the Alaskan Bush is how close everything is.

Taryn Williams

Taryn Williams.

Taryn Williams


When I lived in Philadelphia, it took me nearly an hour to commute to my school via public transportation.

Here, it takes less than two minutes to walk there. I get to sleep in later and have a slower morning, as there’s no stress that I’ll have to pay for a taxi if I miss the train.

Read more: I moved from Atlanta to a tiny Alaskan village of 270 people. It’s wildly expensive, but I’ve never felt more at home.

There are no coffee shops on my route (or any in a hundred-mile radius). Instead, I make my own chai lattes with chai tea, milk, cinnamon, and spices in a pot on the stove. It’s not quite as convenient as a local shop, but it tastes just as good.

School is different in the Bush, too. Most teachers have multigrade classrooms (think kindergarten to fourth grade or all of middle and high school) and class sizes are generally smaller.

In my current seventh- to twelfth-grade class, I teach 8 students in 5 subjects.

With students in so many different grade levels, there’s a lot more facilitating than there is in larger schools, but my students have also gained an enormous amount of independence because of this.

Since I live so close to school, I’m able to go home for lunch every day, and it’s something I’ve really grown to appreciate.

Last year, my students brought me a puppy they found — there’s a problem with puppy overpopulation in the Bush — and she’s been with me ever since.

white puppy on a mountain in the Alaskan bush

Taryn Williams’ dog, Betty.

Kyle Comeau


My lunch is only 30 minutes, but my house is close enough that I can get there quickly and play with her outside for a few minutes while my food heats up.

There are no local sports clubs students can join, and they can only interact with youth from other places remotely.

I want my students to have the most enjoyable high school experience possible, so I’m always looking for after-school opportunities for them.

Most recently, I facilitated an internship where students learned how to make their own podcast from a Native Alaskan podcaster. I try to find activities that align with my students’ interests and guide my search based on that.

There are no restaurants, movie theaters, bowling alleys, or other’traditional’ Western sources of entertainment.

My students often ask me to take walks with them or share a mug of tea after school. They enjoy learning about the other places I’ve lived and what my life was like where I grew up. Often, they accompany me when I take my puppy for a walk down to the local store and post office.

a scenic view of the Alaskan bush

The view of the village from outside Taryn Williams’ home.

Taryn Williams


The store is small and the prices are higher than you would find elsewhere.

If there’s something that I use frequently — something that others would use as well — they’ll sometimes order it. I usually buy all perishable products there, such as pints of Ben & Jerry’s ($9) and blocks of cheese ($15). I buy orange juice only on special occasions, as it usually costs about $17.

After walking to the store to pick up any groceries or packages, I try to go for a longer hike or run with the puppy.

In the spring and fall, when we have 18 hours of daylight, I try to spend as much time outside as possible. In the winter, we only have a few hours of sun and I tend to stay closer to home — or follow along with Yoga with Adriene videos on my SmartBoard at school.

I usually spend about an hour cooking dinner each night.

I’m a vegetarian and order produce from Full Circle Farm in Washington for all of my meals.

Cooking is one of my greatest joys in life and I’m so grateful to live somewhere where I can dedicate significant time to it each day.

If there’s something going on in town — a gathering for a wedding or a holiday, for example — I always head there and participate in local customs. Most nights, however, I cozy up in my reading nook or play a movie I downloaded on

Netflix
.

I often spend weekends tagging along on hunting or fishing trips even though I don’t participate, and I’m incredibly grateful to the villagers that have welcomed me into their lives. I’ll take the things I learned from them and from living here with me wherever I go next.



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