March can be a tough time of year for teachers. The kids are tired. Teachers are tired. The routine has become a bit mundane.
But for FCS teacher alumna, Heidi Montague Sloan, and her 5th grade students, March is something to look forward to. The Last Great Race®! And next school year this event will take on a whole new meaning for her students, because Heidi will not be teaching from her classroom, but on the Iditarod Trail as the 2018 Teacher on the Trail™.
The Last Great Race®, or the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, began in 1973 by Joe Redington Sr. and runs from Settler’s Bay to Nome, Alaska. As snow mobiles became popular and were replacing the sled dog, Joe wanted to preserve the sled dog tradition and the history of the Iditarod Trail. The trail had been used for gold mining supplies, food, and to carry US mail when the roads became iced over during the winter months. Mushers still carry a mail bag with them on the 1,049-mile trail. The last 49 miles was added to the race to represent the 49th state of Alaska.
For years Heidi has integrated curriculum from the Iditarod into her regular curriculum. Her students follow the race each day. She integrates math, language arts and history lessons as they follow along with the Teacher on the Trail™.
Each school year one teacher is chosen. Only one. What Heidi had never imagined is that in 2018 she would be that Teacher!
Heidi started her teaching career at Fredericksburg Christian School fresh out of college. She was hired by the founders of FCS, Gary and Andy Foss. After 5 1/2 years of teaching she took time away from the classroom to have a family. When she returned to teaching she went to the Stafford County Public School system and has been teaching there for 15 years. She attributes her success as a teacher to the early training and mentoring she received from the Foss’ in her early teaching years at FCS. “It really shaped who I am now,” says Heidi.
Being chosen as the teacher for The Last Great Race® doesn’t wait until March – she will begin her position in June. Part of her responsibilities include creating curriculum that is shared with teachers around the country, and the world, beginning this summer. Thousands of classrooms across the nation all participate in this annual project. Teachers have the option of integrating the program throughout the entire school year. “This is also great for homeschoolers,” says Heidi. This makes a great unit study.
During the actual race in March, Heidi will fly up to Alaska and attend the race. She will be there to report and Skype with classrooms about the race as it happens. Flying from checkpoint to checkpoint on a small bush plane, Heidi will be able to show the ins and outs of what goes on behind the scenes. She will talk to the mushers, visit the towns and villages on the trail, and bring a cultural experience to the students watching.
Becoming the official Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™ is a big honor. When asked what the application process was like Heidi said, “It was very long and involved. It took from June to December 1st.”After all the paperwork, and I mean paperwork, was done three finalists were flown to Alaska to meet with the Iditarod education team. They toured, were interviewed, made presentations at an Iditarod teacher conference, and were watched every minute. There were people assigned to the candidates to simply watch what they did and how they interacted with other people. All of this was recorded and given to the application team for review. On March 30, 2017, Heidi got her news – she had been chosen. “I have a passion for this. I feel God has brought me this far. It’s not just about the Iditarod. Who knows who I will touch or reach out to while I am there.”
If you are a teacher, homeschooling parent, or just a parent, you are welcome to follow Heidi on her Iditarod adventure. Or email Heidi at firstname.lastname@example.org. She would love to hear from you!