Ekwok's William "Sonny" Nelson School gets new teacher and principal

Aug 1, 2017

Amy Arnold arrived in Ekwok two weeks ago. So far she is the only teacher on staff for the school, which has 17 students enrolled this year. She will also serve as principal.

Amy Arnold comes to Ekwok with 23 years of experience in education.
Credit Avery Lill/ KDLG

Ekwok has a new teacher and principal. Amy Arnold arrived two weeks ago from Florida. She has been an educator for 23 years. Many of those years were spent running The Monarch School, a Florida school she started with her husband for students with autism spectrum disorder.

“I ran that school for seven years until he got very sick. That’s when we walked away from that, and I didn’t go back to that because you can’t go home again,” says Arnold.

After her husband passed away last year, she wanted to make a significant change in location and lifestyle. She applied to teaching positions far from Florida, schools overseas and schools in Alaska.

“Alaska just seemed like the most logical choice to stay in country and still have an adventure,” Arnold says.

As she gears up for the coming year, there is one plan she is particularly keen to implement. She is excited to bring elders from the community into the classroom regularly to speak with students.

“I want them to understand how special it is to listen to the stories of their elders and to know where they came from because I think that’s so important,” says Arnold. “There are so few people in the U.S. now that really have a sense of roots and a sense of history connected to where they are.”

Arnold hopes to retire in Florida six years from now. Until then, she would like to put down roots in Alaska.

“What I hear from the adults and from the children is they want someone to stay, and I think we all desire that consistency,” she says, reflecting on conversations she has had in her short time in the village. “I’m excited, and I’m hoping to be able to stick it out and make it work.”

So far Arnold is the only teacher on staff at William “Sonny” Nelson School. However, Southwest Region School District is actively seeking to hire another one. This year 17 students are enrolled.  Their grades range from pre-kindergarten to seventh grade.

Contact the author at avery@kdlg.org or 907-842-5281.

William "Sonny" Nelson School in Ekwok
Credit Avery Lill/ KDLG