2017 Iditarod Conference for Educators – February 28 – March 3 – Anchorage

2017 Iditarod Conference for Educators

“*Make Sense of Problems and Persevere in Solving Them”

(*Mathematics Common Core:  Standard #1 – CCSS.Math.Practice.MP1)

View the Conference Schedule by Clicking Here!

Download the 2017 Conference Registration Materials by clicking here!


Iditarod Educational Learning Projects connect a real event, in real time- to content learning by providing experiential, project based, place based, standards aligned/common core aligned, and 21st century technology rich learning projects that focus on best practices of education and enhance curriculum areas of literacy, science, math, and other content areas. (STEM strong!) These technology based projects put rigor in your curriculum, enhance classroom instruction,  and inspire students to read more, write more, solve more mathematical and scientific problems while involved in technology based and experience enriched lessons. Iditarod Educatonal Learning Projects are standards based, common core aligned, motivational, and a key to academic success.  Join us at the conference to learn more about using Iditarod in the classroom and experience first hand this motivational teaching tool!

Event Location: Anchorage: Captain Cook Hotel, Anchorage A pre-conference reception will be held February 27 at 7:00 PM at the Captain Cook.

*Special bonus:  The 2017 Iditarod starts on March 4 in Anchorage and Restarts on March 5 in Willow.  Make your plans to stay for those events!  We can provide you information on how you as an attendee of our conference, can sign up to volunteer at the start or the restart of the race.  This provides attendees with an opportunity to be involved in Service Learning projects. Contact djohnson@iditarod.com for further information.  We suggest if you are flying to Alaska for our conference that you book your itinerary to arrive by 5:00 PM on Monday, February 29 to attend our 7:00 PM pre-conference reception and if at all possible, your departure late Sunday evening, March 6  or on Monday, March 7 to allow time for you to attend the Restart.

This conference is created for educators of students in all grade levels and disciplines. 

Join our Facebook Page to get announcements and meet some of your fellow attendees!  Click here for updates on the event.

Conference Schedule



“Make Sense of Problems and Persevere in Solving Them”

Our overall conference theme, based on mathematics common core standard 1, sets the stage for educators to gain information on helping to meet this and other standards to provide enrichment and rigor to lessons in order to guide students to greater academic success. Students must discover multiple ways to solve problems, be flexible to change gears and try a different method to solve problems, and ‘stick to it’ to solve problems and reach goals.  In a sense, that’s what the Iditarod mushers are doing as they set goals, problem solve, and journey from Anchorage to Nome.  This common thread…  is the environment for success, academically for students….. and for the mushers, is just so similar!

Quick Summary of Conference Schedule

Monday:  February 27 2017:  Pre Conference Social courtesy our Education Sponsor, ExxonMobil, 7:00 PM, Hotel Captain Cook, Anchorage

  • Plan on arriving in Alaska in time to join us for this event.  We’ll be stepping on the runners of the sled together at this meet, greet, and share our goals for the week to come.  This will start us off on the week’s adventure!

Tuesday:  February 28, 2017:  Get in the Sled with us!  Integrate the Last Great Race on Earth into  Your Existing Curriculum.

  • Speakers and sessions will provide attendees with examples of lessons and activities for classroom use with a focus on STEM and applicable to common core and content standards.  Among the speakers will be the educators who have been selected as finalists for 2018 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™ and other presenters who are experts in delivering Iditarod instructional materials to students.  A focus on authentic learning techniques, technology, and STEM instruction are key elements of this day. 
  • Evening (late afternoon) session will be a field trip to the Official Artist for Iditarod, Jon Van Zyle’s home and gallery.  He and his wife, Jona, will introduce us to their kennel dogs and share a behind the scenes look at their life and their colorful – artistic history; Jon having raced in two early Iditarod races, has been the Official Artist for Iditarod since 1979.

Wednesday: March 1, 2017:  Get on the Bus!  Site Based Project Based Experiential Learning

  • This is our field trip day.  We will be visiting Iditarod Headquarters in the morning, enjoying a delicious lunch, and visiting a musher’s kennel in the afternoon.  We’ll leave at 7:45 and return around 5:00 pm.
  • At Iditarod Headquarters, attendees will observe the work day of the team of Iditarod veterinarians who are in the process of examining the dogs who will be racing.  Each dog must pass medical exams and be pronounced fit for the trail.  The veterinarians will be conducting physical exams, recording data, and visiting with mushers.  We’ll be stepping into a serious work environment to gain the opportunity to better understand the focus on dog care before, during, and after the race.  Attendees will be able to observe the examinations – temperatures being taken, urine collected, and other details examined, photograph or video record for instructional purposes back in the classroom, and ask questions about the science behind the true athletes  who run this race — the Iditarod sled dogs. 
  • At the musher’s kennel, attendees will have the opportunity get a behind the scenes look at a working – racing dog kennel.   The culture of the life of a musher will easily be observed and better understood after this visit.  Not to mention, most likely attendees will get an opportunity to meet any puppies that are at the kennel.
  • Attendees are encouraged to bring their devices (Smart phones/tablets) and to communicate with their classrooms if possible while on this field trip.  We’ll provide attendees more information about this in February.
  • A list of optional evening activities that you may wish to choose from will be provided to attendees.

Thursday:  March 2, 2017: Get on the Runners

Location:  Hotel Captain Cook, Anchorage

Speakers will include educators who are experts in using Iditarod as a classroom tool to deliver Iditarod based curriculum to students in k-12 classrooms. There will be both break out sessions and general sessions with a focus on what we call: SLED:  STEM, Literacy, Experiential Learning, and Differentiated Instruction.

Friday:  March 3, 2017:  Theme:  Behind the Scenes of “The Last Great Race on Earth®”

Location:  Lakefront Anchorage, a Millennium Hotel

  • This day is designed to deliver information on the race, Alaska, and the icons that have played an important role in 45 years of Iditarod.  Location:  Lakefront Hotel.  There will be 4 speakers and the sessions will be open to the public for a cost of $20 per speaker.  In addition, there will be 2 sessions for the conference attendees which will be small group break out sessions for collaboration, goal setting, and accountability of instruction.

Information about Meals:

Tuesday, Thursday – Light breakfast and lunch will be provided.  A ticket to the Musher Banquet Thursday night will be included for all 4 day attendees.  Additional tickets for family members or attendees will be available for purchase.

Wednesday – Lunch will be provided

Friday – Lunch will be provided

 Click here to view the full conference schedule for the 2017 Iditarod Teacher Conference.  (Coming soon)

Quick Facts About Attending the Teacher Conference

1.  If you are not from Alaska, book a flight to Anchorage.  Plan to arrive by 5:00 PM on Monday so you can attend the Pre Conference Social at the Hotel Captain Cook which begins at 7:00 PM. The Start of the Iditarod will be on Saturday, March 5 and the Restart will be on Sunday, March 6 in Willow.   If your schedule permits, plan to stay in Alaska to attend both of these events for the maximum Iditarod experience.  Contact us if you have questions about your departure or arrival times. (*We will sell shuttle bus tickets at the conference to those wishing to attend the Restart.  ($20)  The shuttle will leave and return to the Hilton.  Time to be announced at a later date.  See below for more information.)

2.  Upon arrival at the airport in Anchorage, take a taxi to the Hotel Captain Cook or other location for your lodging. The hotel Captain Cook does not have free shuttle service.

3.  Attending the Iditarod Musher Drawing Banquet:  Your banquet ticket is included in the 4 day conference fee.  Dress is casual.  The banquet is held at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center.  The Captain Cook is a short walk to the Dena ina Civic Convention Center.   Most attendees walk to the banquet.  Tickets for the banquet will be handed out on Thursday afternoon of the conference.  

4.  Attending the start of the 2017 Iditarod:  The race begins in downtown Anchorage.  The starting line is a short walking distance from our conference hotel. Plan to get up early and get on the street to meet mushers, handlers, and dogs!  Dog trucks start arriving around sunrise.

5.  Attending the restart of the race at Willow, Alaska:  A shuttle bus will depart from the Downtown Hilton and take you to the restart and bring you back to the Hilton.  There will be a $20 shuttle bus fee for the shuttle bus.  Since parking in Willow is very limited and traffic is heavy, this is your best and only option for attending the restart of the race.  The $20 fee will be collected at the teacher conference and cannot paid in advance when attendees register.  Plan to ride the shuttle to the Restart of the race.  Times and details of the shuttle bus will be announced at the Teacher Conference.

6.  What to wear:  Dress is casual for all events.  For outdoor events, ‘winter’ dress is necessary:  gloves/mittens, hat that can cover your ears and keep you warm, winter coat, *optional – winter pants/snow pants, winter boots are a must!. 

7.  What to bring to Alaska:  In addition to your clothing and personal items, we remind you to bring your camera, of course we recognize many of you have smart phones, but sometimes a camera is also great to have along. Bring your devices!  Most teachers also bring their laptop, ipad, or other technology tools they normally use.   Your cell phone will generally work in Alaska, but check with your personal cell phone service prior to going to Alaska.  Internet is available at the Hilton, Race Headquarters – , The Lakefront Anchorage, A Millennium  Hotel, and other places, however if you have a personal Wifi hotspot, you might consider bringing that with you.  There are places we may travel that you’ll find  Internet and/or cell service may be spotty due to the nature of your location and other factors.  Bring your devices!  Plan to use them!

Most attendees conduct Skype calls or Facetime to their classroom while they are in Alaska.  If doing so, we suggest you work with Jen Reiter, 2014 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™, our Iditarod Skype in the classroom expert.  She is an expert in using Skype in your local classrooms and in Alaska.  She’s got tips and ideas for you to use Skype and to create/maintain blogs for your classroom to view to and follow you while you are in Alaska.  Contact Jen for details.

8.  Attendees can opt to take up to four credits from the University of Alaska, Anchorage.  Please note, our conference schedule is designed to meet the hours in attendance necessary to be eligible to receive credits.  We therefore must ensure attendees are in sessions a minimum number of hours as required in order for us to provide this option of university credits.  Our days are long, jam packed with options, and designed to provide every attendee with maximum information and attention from our staff regardless of whether they are taking the university credits or not.  Attendees not in attendance for the required 4 days, and wishing to take the UAA credits must attend make up sessions and complete homework assignments in order to obtain the university credits.  Contact djohnson@iditarod.com for additional information.  Attendees not taking the conference for UAA credit are free to limit sessions they attend or opt out of the Tuesday evening field trip, however those taking the UAA credit, must attend all sessions on Tuesday – Friday.  The additional fee to UAA for University credits is about $100 per credit.  The conference fee for all attendees is the same, with the additional cost for university credits collected at the conference when registration materials are collected.

 *Photos by Mike Kenney, Jen Reiter, Terrie Hanke, and Diane Johnson


What goes on at a typical conference?  Get a glimpse of a previous confernce:

2016 Winter Conference: 

Tuesday, March 1Educational Presentations (Light breakfast and lunch are included.) Theme of the Day: Mush it to the Limit! 

7:30 – 8:00: Light breakfast and Registration, Meeting you will be our pleasure! 

         *Please pick up your conference credentials and important information at the front desk.

8:00 – 8:15: Welcome, Introductions – The ‘Rookie Meeting’ begins as we move to the starting line of the Last Great Race on Earth®

8:15 – 8:30: Meet Katie Mangelsdorf and Iditarod Myth Busting

8:30 – 9:00: Get out your devices! * Bringing Your Classroom Along Virtually – Through the use of Skype, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, and/or other means of communicating, connect with your classroom while you are in Alaska and during the race.  We are your resource to the successful use of technology tools to enhance this week’s experience for your students and educational community.  Tips and Time!   Jen is the 2014 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™.  Jen has presented on the National Level and is a member of the Iditarod education team striving to put ‘Rigor’ Iditarod style in classrooms around the nation.

9:00 – 9:15: –  Mush it to the Limits! Martha Dobson and Linda Fenton – Mush, Hike! Get Moving!

9:20 – 10:20 – Key Note Speaker:  Linda Fenton, 2013 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™ is from Wisconsin.  Linda, an elementary school teacher, inspired her entire school to get involved with rigorous Iditarod based lessons which allowed each grade level to focusing on specific content skills.  The teachers developed projects to support their curriculum and follow the race.   Linda’s presentation will have a focus on Social Studies and technology as well as highlight on other curriculum areas.  Linda’s experiences as Iditarod’s Teacher on the Trail™ has inspired other educators to take the challenge of enhancing curriculum and helping students reach their goals.

*10:20 – 10:45- Movement is Education!  Activity:  Martha Dobson and Linda Fenton  (Movement Iditarod Style part 1)

10:45 – 11:30- Sara Lamont: Iditarod Math: A School Project to Promote Math Success! AND so much more!  Sara is a kindergarten educator from Palmer, Alaska.  Sara is a member of the Teacher on the Trail selection committee and staff member for the summer camp and winter conference. Sara has been a race volunteer for many years. Her work has led her to her current position as a trainer for the volunteers who are dog handlers at the Restart of the race. Watch for Sara out at Willow on Sunday, March 6, where she’ll be helping to organize volunteers who help get the musher and teams to the starting line.

11:30 – 12:00  Laura Wright, 2016 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™- Meet Laura and discover how to connect with her journey along the Iditarod during this year’s Iditarod.  Laura will be traveling by bush plane from checkpoint to checkpoint, volunteering, observing, and sharing her experiences with readers around the world.  View the race through Laura’s experiences.  Visit the Iditarod Teacher on the Trail website at this link:  http://itcteacheronthetrail.com/

12:00 – 12:45:  Lunch will be provided to our attendees

12:45 – Diane Johnson * The Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™ Program is designed to provide classroom lessons and race coverage specific to classrooms around the world.  This is the journey of a lifetime for one teacher each year and an educational tool for classrooms around the world.  This session is an introduction to this nationally known program and serves as an introduction to the finalists for the 2017 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™.

The next 3 speakers are finalists for 2017 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™.  Presentations will center on practical use of Iditarod in the classroom as a vehicle of instruction to address STEM and other content areas. Challenged based learning projects add rigor to curriculum and helps students use technology as a tool of discover, communication, and to demonstrate knowledge they gain. The finalists will be selected in January and their names will be place on the schedule at that time.  Each finalist will provide lesson samples and information to the attendees that can energize and revitalize curriculum.  (Appropriate and applicable for Pre K – High School educators.)

  • 12:50 – 1:35  Finalist Presentation-  Dana Tuyls, CO
  • 1:40 – 2: 25   Finalist Presentation-  Don Thomas, MA
  • 2:30 — 3:15    Finalist Presentation-  Annie Kelley, IL

3:20 – 3:30    Wrap up -Small Group Activity

3:30: Depart for Field Trip to Jon Van Zyle’s kennel and art gallery.  You will be outside for a short period of time.  Dress so that you are warm in the outdoor conditions, boots, warm coat, hat, gloves/mittens are essentials.

4:00 – 6:30. We will travel by car pool to this event.  The exact time of our return will vary.

*This session is mandatory for attendees taking university credit.  Other attendees may opt out of this field trip and use the time as they wish.

March 2, Wednesday:  7- 7:30 Meet in the lobby, grab a cup of coffee and some light breakfast.  Check in before you get on the coach.  Our transportation leaves from the Hilton between 7:45- 8:00 AM.  Focus of the Day:  Mush it to the Limit! Iditarod 101:  Everything you need to know about Iditarod

*You will be outside a good amount of the time today.  Please dress appropriately – warm coats, hats, gloves/mittens, boots, etc.  Dressing in layers will help provide you with the comfort you need.  We have no way to predict what the weather conditions may be through out the day.  Feel free to bring your devices, cell phones should function most places.  You may be able to face time or Skype from some of the locations. 

  • 7:30: Board the Coach for departure for our field trip.
  • Iditarod Headquarters in Wasilla, Alaska:  Observe the Iditarod veterinarian team at work as Iditarod mushers arrive at HQ with their dog teams.  The dogs are examined by the veterinarians.  Take photographs, video, and observe the process at the vet check.
  • Lunch – A delicious meal and beautiful scenery awaits you!
  • PM: Visit to Iditarod Veteran Matt Failor’s kennel and homestead. The 17th Dog Kennel! This is your opportunity to meet an Iditarod musher, visit the kennel, meet the dogs, and get your questions answered about living the life of a musher.  Bring your cameras and get Matt’s autograph. 
  • Return time, around 5:00 p.m.  This event is also sold to the general public based on availability.  

Evening Options:

Our recommendation: 

Join us for a viewing of The Amazing Trail : Enjoy Alaska from your warm, cozy seat and hang on as you run down the famous Iditarod trail with nine of your tail wagging best friends in this interactive viewing experience with a little history and a whole lot of fun!

After the screening visit the Bear Den where you can take photos in life size settings:

Mushing a team of virtual dogs on an authentic sled wearing a traditional Kuspik
Take a virtual hot air balloon ride and see Alaska from an eagle eye view
Hook into the virtual fish of your dreams in an Alaskan fishing experience you’ll never forget!
Grab a Bear Hug!
Don your rain gear for a wet ride on Alaska’s Friendliest Catch!

$10.00 per person must reserve ahead – see Kerry or Jen

Theater is directly across from the Hilton

5:30 arrival – popcorn, snack, drinks available for purchase
5:45-6:20 – screening – run time approx. 35 minutes
6:20- 7:00 – photo op! Put on a traditional Kuspik and have your photo taken on the back of a sled & other activities

Other options:

2.  Explore on your own or relax at the hotel.  You can dine at the hotel or find a restaurant downtown Anchorage. 

March 3, Thursday:  Educational Presentations (Light breakfast (coffee, juice, rolls) and lunch are included.)  Focus of the Day:  Stem, Social Studies, Life Skills – Elementary and Secondary

7:30 – 8:00: Light breakfast, collaboration, reconnecting, and Let’s Mush it to the Limit —  Educationally!

8:00 – 8:20:  Announcements, Regrouping, and Sharing – Diane Johnson

8:20- 9:20:  Key Note Speaker: Jen Reiter – Trails: Math & Social Studies on the Iditarod Trail.  Jen Reiter, an elementary teacher from Baltimore, MD,  was the 2014 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™ and has presented  national conferences.  Her rigorous math lessons are featured on Iditarod’s website and are a common core aligned tool to students developing stronger math skills.  Her session  provides insight about Iditarod and how to make the connections from the race to higher level thinking.

9:20 – 10:50- Full STEAM Ahead! Meet educators from the EANES School District, Austin, Texas.   In this something for everyone session you will discover exciting and practical lessons and activities for an entire school! (Science, Technology, Economics, Arts, and Math – school wide rigors lessons and projects.  These educators have spent the last several years working as a team to involved the entire school in real world , technology based, engaging Iditarod based projects.

10:50 – 11:00 Movement the Iditarod Way:  Martha Dobson and Linda Fenton

11:00 – 12:00  Terrie Hanke, Key Note Speaker:  8 Traits of Iditarod, Sanka W. Dog….   The race provides the perfect environment to challenge students to set goals and strengthen character traits.  If you are looking to create a classroom behavior program or strengthen your school’s program, this session will inspire you and get you thinking about the needs of your own students.

12:00 – 1:00 Lunch (Provided by our partner, ExxonMobil) and Collaboration Time

1:00 – 1:20 – Debbie Moderow, Iditarod Musher and Author, “Fast into the Night: A Woman, Her Dogs, and Their Journey North on the Iditarod Trail.  Debbie will have her book available for sale.

1:30 – 2:00:  Seeing the Trail Statistically.  A presentation for elementary and secondary educators.  Kate Abernethy.  Teacher/math coach at Cocoa High School, Cocoa, FL.

2:00 – 2:30: Meet our Science Guy!  Sid Lucas.  We’ll be web conferencing with Sid, a secondary science teacher in Kiel, Wisconsin.  Sid will provide advice and information on adding more rigor to your science lessons through standards aligned/common core science instruction.  We’ll introduce you to his lessons that are featured on our Education Portal.

2:30 – 3:00  Get Moving Iditarod Style:  Martha Dobson and Linda Fenton – Movement stimulates the Brain!  

3:00- 4:00:  Al Byers:  National Science Teacher Association

4:15 – 4:30  “Checkpoint Summary” Led by Finalists for 2017 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™

Evening:  Musher Drawing Banquet  (meal included for attendees)  Banquet begins at 6:00 – Dress is casual.

* Musher Drawing Banquet tickets are included in the conference fee for teachers attending the 4 day event.  Teachers attending less than 4 days may purchase banquet tickets for $82. *Tickets will be distributed on Thursday.

March 4, Friday:  Location:  Lakefront Hotel: Iditarod Speaker Event  (Breakfast is on your own.  Transportation to the Lakefront will leave at 8:30 AM. Noon meal is included for attendees who are attending the 4 day conference.)

  • bookFirst10Years9:00  – 10:00 –  Iditarod the First Ten Years:  Members of the first ten years will share a few stories.   Rainy Hall  and others involved in the creation of this book and piece of artwork will be at the session to share stories, answer questions, and help us understand what was going on behind the scenes during this time period.  This is your opportunity to get in touch with Iditarod’s historic past.  

             Books will be available for sale. 



  • 10:15  – 11:15:  Cindy Abbott, 2015 Red Lantern winner. Presentation:  From the top of the world, across 1000-miles of Alaskan wilderness,  Cindy Abbott captivates audiences with tales from the trails. Amazing stories of perseverance and resilience, the personification of true grit.  As the only woman in the world to have both summited Mt. Everest and completed the Iditarod, she shows that what might be thought of as impossible may be possible, if taken 10-feet-at-a-time!
  • 11:30 – 12:00:  Sharing Session.  Attendees, this is your opportunity to share your ideas or ask questions of our Edu. staff.
  • 12:00 – 1:00 Lunch, provided to attendees
  • 1:00 – 2:00:  Dr. Stuart Nelson, Jr., Chief Veterinarian for Iditarod – The Science behind the Sled Dogs.  Why do they run?  What care are they given before, during, and after the race?  This session will provide you with every thing you need to know  and provide you with a trip along the trail  with Dr. Nelson’s slide show.
  • 2:15 – 3:15:  Behind the Scenes of Iditarod:  Find out what’s happening right now behind the scenes of the race as we prepare to stage the 2016 Iditarod.   Speakers include race staff and volunteers who will share about what they do and answer your questions.  This is a rare and amazing glance behind the scenes.
  • 3:15- 3:45:  Final wrap up session led by the Finalists for 2017 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™. 

Optional Evening Session:  

5:00 – 8:00 Book Signing: The First 10 Years.  3rd Floor Lakefront:  5:00 – 8:00 –  This is an ‘open house’ book signing.  Books will be for sale.  Many authors (Iditarod Old Timers) will be on hand.  You’ll be able to get autographs and meet many Iditarod Icons!

Book Launch:  “Fast into the Night: A Woman, Her Dogs, and Their Journey North on the Iditarod Trail” by Author Debbie Moderow.  Meet Debbie, hear her story, and get ready for another great story from the Iditarod Trail and Alaska. “A captivating memoir of one woman’s attempt to finish the Iditarod, led by her team of spunky huskies with whom she shares a fascinating and inextricable bond.” (Time and location to be announced. Highly recommend you attend!)

6:30:  Greeting   7:00:  Presentation   7:45 Book Signing.  Location:  Anchorage Museum:  625 C Street, Anchorage

Lance Mackey Movie:  Friday, March 04 7:00PM

at Century 16 and XD – Anchorage 
301 E 36th Ave, Anchorage, AK, US, 99503, US
And at The Alaska Experience Theatre in Anchorage:
Alaska Experience Theatre
441 West 4th Avenue 
Ste 200
Anchorage Alaska 99501

*Friday evening meal is on your own!

Tip for Attendees:  Go out on the streets and watch the street department haul in snow and make the starting areas for Saturday.Ge

Conference advice:

  1.  *Did you know that when our education team visits classrooms one of the most often asked questions is..  “When (or where) do the mushers go to the bathroom?  What about the dogs?  When or where do they go?”  The answer is:  Mushers go when they have to go, where they happen to be. They go and they go quickly, especially if it’s really cold out.  And the dogs..  they go on the run..  They don’t necessarily stop and run.  They just go.”  So in honor of this ‘trail knowledge’, please note that we’ve listed a few scheduled ‘breaks’.  However, our breaks might not be when you need to go…  SO, Please, be like the musher and the dogs…  Just get up and go when you have to go!  Don’t wait on us!
  2.  Keep active with your devices during our conference.  Skype or Facetime your students in for a few minutes (but sh!  Please keep it on the quiet side.) or text/message/tweet out your experiences.