The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

January 17, 2014

Journeying to Alaska

By Amy Kent Herald Staff Writer
The Clinton Herald

---- — CAMANCHE — Leaving behind the books and backpacks, Camanche Middle School teacher Erin Montgomery will soon embark on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — a chance to become the 2015 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail.

On Jan. 8, Montgomery learned that she was one of three finalists selected for the teacher on the trail contest, a nationwide competition between educators from all grade levels for a chance to witness the world famous Iditarod dog sled race, up close and in person.

Being a dog enthusiast and long-time Iditarod fan, Montgomery researched the Teacher on the Trail contest and decided she couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

”When I was looking on the website I saw this education portal and saw hundreds of different ways that you can use (the Iditarod) in the classroom. In seventh grade one of the things I talk about is Alaska so, I started using that as another resource for teaching about Alaska,” Montgomery said. “Then again while looking at those resources I stumbled onto this Teacher on the Trail, found the application and asked Mr. (Justin) Shaffer if I could apply.”

After receiving full a pproval and support from Camanche Middle School Principal Shaffer and Camanche Schools Superintendent Tom Parker, Montgomery began working on the application process in July. Throughout the next four months, she added aspects about her self, her teaching techniques and lesson plans about Alaska and the Iditarod, to the detailed application that she calls “more like a portfolio,” and sent it off in November with the hope of getting a call.

”When Erin first approached me, the way I thought about it was that it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Shaffer said. “We couldn’t pass this up for Erin and we couldn’t pass this up for the students of Camanche. For her to even be a finalist, and the information and education that she’s going to gain is going to help our school and our community. And if she is selected as the 2015 Teacher on the Trail, the opportunities in my perspective, are endless.”

When she did receive that call, the possibility of winning became a strong reality and she began preparing for the next round, which means a trip to Alaska in February.

Montgomery will leave Feb. 22 to face a series of interviews, presentations and more self promotion to a panel of judges before returning to Camanche on March 4. Once the panel has made a decision, the announcement should be made on or before April 2.

If she is chosen as the 2015 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail, her responsibilities will begin in June and will include developing a year-long lesson plan that features the Iditarod race and the state of Alaska, as well as a variety of other responsibilities like blogging, volunteer work and spreading the word about Iditarod, all before attending the race in March.

The importance of winning is of course the end goal for Montgomery but, it’s not the only thing she’s thinking about right now. Having the opportunity to experience something many people can only dream of is what really sticks out for her.

“Of course I want to win, but also I want to bring back more resources to my students, and not just my class but anybody that’s interested,” Montgomery said.

“I want to bring those resources back to everybody here at the school and in the community and to share that information. I will not only be sharing about myself and my experience but I will be getting a wealth of information from others and that’s an incredible opportunity to have available.”