Elder Talks

Students listen while elders speak at the Anna Tobeluk Memorial School in Nunapitchuk. Photos by Lonny Cruff

by Lonny Cruff

Nunapitchuk, AK – Students and staff at Anna Tobeluk Memorial School (ATMS) in Nunapitchuk have been privileged to hear from several local elders and other speakers during a regularly scheduled assembly every Wednesday morning. This weekly activity was the brainchild of new Site Administrator Mr. Jimmy Hayes.
“When I arrived in Nunapitchuk, I felt like the students at the school were ready and willing to respectfully listen to local elders and other speakers to encourage them to be better students, and just better people.”

James Chris addressing the students.

Students have come to expect the Wednesday morning event, and come in anxious to hear what the speaker has to tell them that week. The advantage of using local people to speak to the students is that many of the speakers are able to deliver their comments in Yugtun.
“I notice that students seem to lean forward and pay attention when the speaker communicates with them in their first language,” said teacher Andrea Cruff.
For their part, the elders who come in appreciate being able to speak with the students as well. When he spoke to the assembly, Dr. Robert Nick talked about how school was for him as a youngster.
“When we were in school, we were forbidden to speak our first language. Things are much different now for you students,” said Dr. Nick.
There have been quite a variety of topics covered, from respect for the building and each other, to the importance of every student doing their best every day, to treating each other kindly and not picking on or bullying others.
“We like hearing the stories they tell,” said 9th grader Alisha Tobeluk, “And we aren’t hearing anything we didn’t hear before, but they tell us to remember important things,” added classmate Alexandra “Sandra” Watson.
“Finally, and most importantly, we want the members of this community to know they are welcome in our school and that we value their experience and message!” said Mr. Hayes. The positive change in behavior in school and the improvement in academic performance of ATMS students are showing that this is a welcome addition to the school.