Mentor Biography

Kirstie Willean


After earning my Bachelor's Degree in Liberal Studies with a minor in Environmental Studies and Planning at Sonoma State University, I began my elementary teaching career in the Sonoma Valley of Northern California. Alaska had been tugging at my heart-strings since youth, and three years into my teaching career the magnetic pull northward could no longer be ignored.

My years in Alaska have been well lived and steeped in valuable lessons. My first six years were spent teaching in the villages of Kivalina and Mentasta and the community of Tok. I switched gears and began teaching on Alaska's urban road system. With an eye on the Kenai Peninsula, I moved on to the coastal town of Seward on the shore of Resurrection Bay. I had the amazing good fortune to become part of an incredibly talented and dedicated team of educators at Wm. H. Seward Elementary School. After 25 years in the elementary classroom, it was time to retire, but I soon realized that teaching the elementary grades was only the first phase of my career in the field of education.

The past 6 1/2 years have been spent as an Education Coordinator for Alaska's adult maximum security prisoners at Spring Creek Correctional Center. During my tenure "behind bars" I coordinated various adult education programs including the ABE/GED program, the U.S. Department of Labor apprenticeship programs, and the University of Alaska Tech Prep computer courses. The need to "bust out" of prison came at just the right time for me to apply to and be accepted as a new Alaska Statewide Mentor!

My hobbies and passions include time outdoors spent hiking, canoeing, camping, and gardening, amongst other pastimes enjoying the fresh air. I am sure that uncountable youthful forays to Yosemite National Park were the foundation of the path leading me to Alaska. The long, winter dark brings-out many forms of fiber-frenzy fulfilled in multiple avenues of sewing, knitting, and other fiber arts.

I feel as though I'm about to embark on a new and exciting journey with another incredible team of dedicated educators. Teaching is, unarguably, one of the most important professions on Earth, and to this end Alaska's students deserve teachers who are enthusiastic, well trained, and supported in their work. I look forward to the challenges and rewards guaranteed to be found in mentoring some of Alaska's promising early career teachers over the next year!