A Year of Miss Agnes

The Year of Miss Agnes begins:

“What will happen now?” I asked Mamma and we watched the plane take the teacher away.

“Maybe no more school.” Mamma twitched her shoulder a little to show she didn’t care.Mamma never went to school much, just a few months here and there when her family wasn’t trapping or out at the spring muskrat camp.She said she hated school when she was little.”

10-year old Frederika (Fred for short) has had six different teachers already.  Some of them stay the whole school year, but most do not. 

“Sometimes we could see the look on their faces the first week they were here, cleaning out their little cabin, putting up pictures on the walls.  The ones who looked mean from the very first lasted the longest.   It was the ones who smiled all the time and pretended to like everything who didn’t last.”

Coming to teach in a remote Alaskan village is a different kind of challenge.  It’s definitely not for every teacher.   First off, school is an extra – kids attend when they can.   It’s not that schooling isn’t important,  it’s just that survival is more important.  Secondly, there are very few supplies, and what there is are cast-offs from other places.  And finally, if you don’t try to understand the culture and traditions of the children you’re trying to teach, it’s impossible to help anyone learn.

Most of children don’t care much for school.  They go when they can, but they don’t mind missing a week or two.   Fred is different.  She lives with her grandparents, her mom and her deaf sister, Bokko.  Now that her grandparents are older, they don’t do as much fishing, hunting and trapping so Fred is in town.  She likes how school changes things up.  She helps out where she can in the store.  She want to learn to read as fast as Mr. Anderson and she want to write better too, so when Sam,  the bush pilot drops off the new teacher, Fred rushes to check her out.

She is older.  She’s wearing pants.   She’s English and she offers tea and cookies to Fred for the help she has given.  She appreciates Fred for who she is and what she has to offer.  That’s different and exciting.  From that first moment, school is different.  Miss Agnes makes the schoolhouse a place all the kids want to come to.  She cleans the window and fills it with  their art.  She shows them how important they are in the world and their place in history.  Miss. Agnes knows how to make each one of the children feel special.  She highlights their strengths and helps them help each other learn even more.  She even finds a way to include Bokko in school for the first time.

The schoolhouse becomes an exciting place of laughter and learning.  The whole community recognizes the importance of school and learning because. of Miss. Agnes.  A year isn’t very long when it is exciting and full – but a good year can stay with you for a lifetime as you “remember when…” Is a year enough to change everything?  Read A Year of Miss Agnes to find out.

If you’d like to read more about living and growing up on Alaska in the early 1900’s check out these other books terrific by Kirkpatrick Hill:

I loved them!

Happy Reading!📚

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