Serving your community: Sand Point teacher nominated for Alaska Teacher of the Year

Ingrid Cumberlidge is a nominee for the 2018 Alaska Teacher of the Year. She teaches third grade in Sand Point. (Photo by Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage)

The State Department of Education will pick Alaska’s Teacher of the Year next month.

This week we’ll have profiles of each of the five finalists, from across the state.

The first is Ingrid Cumberlidge, a third grade teacher from Sand Point. Cumberlidge has taught in the Aleutians East Borough School District for over twenty years, and her Sand Point roots run deep.

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Cumberlidge has always lived in Alaska. She grew up in Sand Point, and went to college in Fairbanks and Anchorage. She didn’t always know she was going to be a teacher.

“I went to school for political science, and I actually worked in the Legislature for a short amount of time,” Cumberlidge said. “And then I realized I love working with kids. And they pay you to play with kids and to watch kids get excited about learning is the best thing in the world.”

Despite getting a taste of more urban Alaska, Cumberlidge always knew that she was going to come back home and serve her community. She says her parents were big influences in that decision.

“They helped establish the borough out there. They fought for the first municipal school district, and then they fought for the borough school district. They later fought for the local health agency,” Cumberlidge said. “So I had these really great models. And so to be able to go back to my hometown and teach just was the ultimate goal, because I could give back to those kids.”

Cumberlidge taught high school before third grade, and she says she prefers teaching the younger kids.

“Third grade is pretty amazing because they go from being spoon-fed, needing a lot of help and support when they come in, to being pretty independent learners,” Cumberlidge said. “And they’re willing to try anything at third grade.”

When announcing the nominees for Teacher of the Year, the state Department of Education highlighted Cumberlidge’s status as a community and cultural advocate. Not only does she work hard to create relationships with parents, but she also takes advantage of the rural landscape of Sand Point to teach her students about history, culture and science.

“We get to talk about how people lived traditionally and insulated their homes. In our region that means the barabaras; they were semi-subterranean with hills built above them so it washed off the rain,” Cumberlidge said. “And we get to compare that to modern day insulation and modern day construction with 200-mile-an-hour winds that blow through occasionally.”

Cumberlidge is the only nominee this year who was born in Alaska, and she’s proud to represent her community.

“I do appreciate the opportunity to celebrate Alaska teachers coming from Alaska, particularly from rural Alaska, Alaska Native teachers being celebrated,” Cumberlidge said. “I think we have a lot of great teachers that are teaching all over Alaska.”

And Cumberlidge says she’s happy she is able to put her small community of about 1,000 in the spotlight.