Teachers from around the world apply for the Iditarod Teacher on the Trail position. What is that like, exactly? The process is long and complex starting with a portfolio submission, due December 1, which includes showcase lessons, experiences and background that are helpful to performing the tasks of the Teacher on the Trail, letters of support from districts and administrators, a video, and many answers to important situational questions, and more. It is a candidate’s “foot in the door” of the selection process.
Each member of the committee reviews each application, submitting their scores. These scores provide a rank for the applicants. This year there were 2 qualified candidates who have now “nudged the door open” a bit further and are invited to Alaska the week before the upcoming race for the next round of competition. Here is where they work with Iditarod education committee members, present at the educators conference, and do “assignments” in race volunteering and writing.
Join us in congratulating and welcoming these finalists who have accepted the challenge and are on their way to Alaska for the next round of their application process. Meet our finalists for the 2025 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail through the bios they sent in their applications.
Kevin Paolini – I was born in 1962 in the Steel City of Lackawanna, NY, just outside Buffalo. I graduated from Lackawanna High School in 1981. I did a short stint in college, but I wasn’t ready. I worked primarily in delivering and dispatching precast concrete and masonry materials. I’ve worked in retail, restaurants, dairy farming, and over-the-road truck driving. After a 25-year absence, I returned to college and earned several degrees. I accomplished all of this while working a full-time job and being married.
I have taught Special Education for Erie 2 BOCES at East Aurora High School in the work experience program for the past seven years. My students vary in ability and are between the ages of 17 to 21. We prepare students for the world of work and to live as independently as possible.
I have two brothers, both veterans and one sister, a registered nurse. My dad, Titus, a retired steelworker, is 83, and my mother, Mary Ann, retired from retail, is 81. They did a fabulous job. My godmother, Lucille, was a teacher and significantly influenced me. My ancestry is diverse, primarily Italian, but with a sprinkle of Irish, Polish, German, and Scandinavian.
I’ve had dogs most of my adult life. Tasha was my first, but she got car sick and couldn’t travel with me. My dad loved her. We had Jake, Jessica, Doulie, Daisy, and Captain. They were all rescued. I had three classroom guinea pigs, Mario, Demon, and Popcorn, our therapy animals. The amount of comfort they delivered outweighed their tiny bodies. Recently, I found a two-week-old abandoned kitten. I’ve raised him for the past seven months. His name is Harley.
I enjoy reading military history. My musical tastes range from Willey Nelson to Metallica. I’ve enjoyed camping, hunting, and fishing in my youth. I am a big John Wayne fan. With my cousins, we roast pigs, beef, lamb, and chicken for various events. I’ve traveled to 45 of 50 states and have been to 10 countries in Europe and Central America. My favorite is the Greek Island of Santorini.
Maggie Hamilton – I currently live in Southern Indiana, but my story started in upstate New York. My family moved to Colorado Springs, CO when I was little and I called Colorado my home until I moved out of state in 2010. Growing up, I was happiest outside- especially if it was snowing! Colorado is the perfect place to explore nature’s beauty!
After graduating from high school, I attended the University of Northern Colorado to study elementary education. I had the chance to study abroad in Dublin, Ireland for a semester, and I loved everything about experiencing a different culture! The next year I met my husband, who was stationed in Cheyenne, WY at the time, and shortly after, we moved overseas to his next assignment in Belgium. Again, being immersed in the culture was mesmerizing. Both of our children were born in Belgium before we moved back to the United States, this time to my husband’s hometown in northwest Wisconsin. My favorite parts about living in Wisconsin? There are too many to count, but the snow made my heart happy!
Our journey continued in rural Southern Indiana, where I started teaching 5th grade at Burris Elementary School in Mitchell, Indiana. My students love to hear about the adventures I have experienced around the world… and I love to share! I have taught my students about the Iditarod every year and my students always find the world of dog mushing captivating and incredible. For students who see snow only a handful of times each winter, the thought of surviving winter in Alaska is unbelievable.
To learn more about our current teacher, Kate Newmyer, or the Teacher on the Trail program and view the application, visit this page: Iditarod Teacher on the Trail. Applications for 2026 are due December 1, 2024.