Sealaska Heritage

NEWS_Anchorage educator wins SHI’s “Teacher Of Distinction” award

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Honor given during SHI’s 2021 education conference

Aug. 9, 2021


Anchorage teacher Seralee Kairaiuak was honored with a 2021 “Teacher of Distinction” award by Sealaska Heritage Institute’s (SHI) Board of Trustees on Saturday during SHI’s virtual education conference.

Originally from the village of Kwigillingok, Kairaiuak has taught children at the Alaska Native Cultural Charter School for the past nine years. Kairaiuak, who was nominated for the award by her peers at the school, is known for sharing her love for the Yup’ik culture and language through her storytelling, traditional cooking, harvesting and dance.

“Ms. Kairaiuak embodies ‘each person is good,’ and it shows in her engagement with families, students, staff and the greater community,” wrote one person who nominated her for the award. “Through love, humor and honesty, she embodies what it means to be a true guiding force in culturally-infused education, and she makes it look effortless. If you see her in action, it is clear that she teaches from her heart and hands... She walks with the wisdom of her elders, the education from her scholarly studies, and her love for children, as our future generation."

“Seralee is the type of teacher we all hope to have. She is the epitome of the type of educator we hope to foster through teacher programs funded through Sealaska Heritage,” said SHI President Rosita Worl. “We are thrilled and honored to present to her this well-deserved award.”

Kairaiuak, speaking by video, told educators at SHI’s annual Culturally Responsive Education Conference on Saturday that she was humbled and grateful for the recognition.

“We focus on the understanding that each person and their history is valuable,” said Kairaiuak, who also credited her peers for the school’s successes. “We are grounded in the why of what we do, and our why is our students — their identity and feeling valued. We use our Native values to root our students and set them up for a lifetime of growth in whatever career path they choose.”

The award came through Preparing Indigenous Teachers and Administrators for Alaska Schools (PITAAS), a scholarship program at the University of Alaska Southeast that is funded by SHI. The award comes with a $3,000 prize, which will go to the Alaska Native Cultural Charter School.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee and a Southeast Regional Language Committee.

CONTACT: Amy Fletcher, SHI Media and Publications Director, 907.586.9116,; Seralee Kairaiuak, teacher of distinction,

Caption: Teacher of Distinction award winner Seralee Kairaiuak. Photo courtesy of Seralee Kairaiuak.  For higher resolution image, contact