State Championship of Teaching!

2017 Alaska Teacher of the Year plus the Alternate Teacher of the Year are #KPBSD educators!


KPBSD Celebrates

  • James Harris, Soldotna High School English teacher, and 2017 Alaska Teacher of the Year!
  • Stephanie Cronin, Seward High School math teacher, and 2017 Alaska Alternate Teacher of the Year!

On December 6, 2016, Dr. Michael Johnson, Commissioner of Education State of Alaska; Amy Jo Meiners, 2016 Alaska Teacher of the Year; and Tim Parker, NEA-AK President conspired with Sean Dusek, KPBSD Superintendent of Schools and Principal Tony Graham, Soldotna High School, to create an assembly and surprise James Harris, where he would learn he is the 2017 Alaska Teacher of the Year. And it worked! You can watch the James Harris learns he is 2017 Alaska Teacher of the Year video that was streamed live, and is now on the KPBSD polycom video channel!



“James Harris believes that the fundamental purpose of teaching literature is to connect students with the world,” Commissioner Johnson said in a statement. “That’s a very good definition of teaching in general. To his classroom, Mr. Harris brings his knowledge, passion, practical experience in writing, and empathy for students. He is an inspiring choice for Alaska Teacher of the Year.”


James Harris, Soldotna High School 2017 Alaska Teacher of the Year

“Yes, yes, yes!” will be the response Mr. Harris offers in 2017 when he is called upon to speak at education conferences and participate in various statewide education working groups. He will be a member of Commissioner Johnson’s teacher advisory group. The Alaska Teacher of the Year is the state’s nominee for national Teacher of the Year. “I look at the profession of teaching as one of the most vital and important jobs in our country and I really hope to represent Alaska teachers and all they strive for,” said James Harris.

A 12-year professional, James Harris has taught English at Soldotna High School for seven years. A published writer, editor, and college educator, he chairs the English department and professional development at his school, and coaches youth hockey. Harris says, “Through literature I hope to help my students empathize with the human story, open themselves up to the joys, sufferings, motivations, disappointments, and triumphs of others, and thus achieve a kinder and more complex understanding of themselves.”

Once students graduate, they start the stories of their own lives. Harris said he uses every skill, experience, talent, and tool at his command to give his students what they need to face their life choices armed with literacy, empathy, and a deeper sense of what they can contribute to our human community.

Mr. Harris holds a bachelor of arts degree in English from Western State College of Colorado, a master of fine arts degree in creative writing from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and a master of arts degree in teaching from the University of Alaska Southeast.

“James is an outstanding educator who always puts kids first. He makes a lasting impression on all the students he comes into contact with, whether in the classroom or in the hallway. He inspires hope, ignites imagination, and instills a love of learning. He is very deserving of this honor and it is a pleasure to work with him each and every day.” – Tony Graham, Soldotna High School principal

KPBSD Superintendent Sean Dusek said, “This is the State Championship of teaching! We are excited and humbled to have two of our teachers recognized as the best in our state! Congratulations to Mrs. Cronin for being the alternate this year. She is and always has been an outstanding teacher. As for our new 2017 Alaska Teacher of the year, Mr. Harris, I am very pleased his great effort with our students has been recognized at the state level. He is an excellent representative of the teachers in our district! It is truly a great day in our district as both of these outstanding individuals have earned the highest honors in our state.”


Stephanie Cronin, Seward High School, 2017 Alternate Alaska Teacher of the Year

Ms. Cronin will serve as Alaska Teacher of the Year if Mr. Harris is named national Teacher of the Year.

She has been teaching mathematics and engineering at Seward High School for 17 of her 19 years in the profession. A leader in our district and the community, she serves on committees for effective instruction, teacher evaluation, professional development, assessment, curriculum, and educational technology, the school site council, and the local Native Youth Olympics. 

“The staff and students of Seward High, and entire community, could not be more proud of Ms. Cronin and her amazing accomplishment,” said Trevan Walker, Seward High School principal. “It’s gratifying to know that she is recognized, at the state level, for that which we have always known in Seward … that her Positive Math Attitude (PMA) has resulted in years of Seward High graduates who share her passion.”

Reached by telephone, Cronin said, “I am humbled and honored to be selected as the 2017 Alaska Alternate Teacher of the Year. I’m proud to represent the amazing teachers of the State of Alaska.”

Cronin says her greatest contribution to education is her impact on students, which is based on respectful, close relationships. Her passion is to show students the beauty and possibilities of mathematics. One student wrote that Ms. Cronin planted the seed that it’s okay to be excited about mathematics. “She increased my positive math attitude exponentially,” the student said, mathematically. She is a leader in Seward High School’s technology-heavy hybrid model, which offers students many ways to earn credits, videotaped lectures to make the most of class time, and online parallels to courses so students have some control over where and when they learn.

Ms. Cronin holds a bachelor of science degree in economics from the University of Minnesota. She holds three degrees from the University of Alaska Anchorage: a bachelor of science degree in mathematics, a master of arts degree in teaching, and a master of arts degree in educational leadership.

Past Alaska Teachers of the Year from KPBSD include:

  • 1999 – Daniel Walker, Seward Middle-High School
  • 1988 – Sammy Crawford, Soldotna High School
  • 1976 – Gary Woodburn, Cooper Landing School


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