Did you know that a teacher is chosen every year to also go on the Iditarod Trail to be a reporter for teachers and students around the world? Just like the trail has been changed because of the pandemic, 2021 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™, Jim Deprez, (pronounced Di pray) will have a unique experience.
Usually the teacher rides in a musher’s sled the 11 miles from the Ceremonial Start to Campbell Airstrip. The next day at the Restart, the teacher hops on a small bush plane to fly to a checkpoint, helping out with tasks and writing about the mushers and dogs arriving. The teacher often sleeps on the floor in the community school, eats leftovers the mushers leave behind, pets dogs, watches dedicated veterinarians, checks in mushers as they arrive, and talks with the Alaskan people who live in that interior village. He flies to other villages to do the same and then ends up in Nome. One of Jim’s dreams is to do just that: stand under the wooden burled arch in Nome, seeing the amazing sled dogs and mushers finish a 1000 mile race.
Because of the CoVid 19 pandemic, Jim’s dreams are going to change. The Ceremonial Start is cancelled. Teams will begin at Deshka Landing instead of on Willow Lake. Very few volunteers will be allowed into the Alaskan communities. The good thing is that Jim will be able to continue being Teacher on the Trail™ for another year! The 50th anniversary of the Iditarod Race will be in 2022, and Jim will be in Alaska for it. When I asked him which checkpoint he would love to see, he quickly responded, “I hope to see the ghost town of Iditarod. I want to explore the old tractor and the bank vault that are abandoned there.”
What will happen to the reporting for this year’s race then? Jim is going to train his students to be reporters and they will be sending you updates on the race, though they will be in Ohio at the time. Lucky kids! Jim is also writing at least twice a month for teachers, giving them good information and teaching ideas.
Jim teaches 3rd grade in Ohio. One reason he wanted to represent teachers and students on the Iditarod Trail was so he could give great ideas to other teachers to provide a way to get their students excited about learning math, reading, writing, STEM, and so much more through the race.
His 3rd graders got really excited when they had a ZOOM call with musher Matthew Failor. Matthew took them around his dog yard, showed them where all the dog food (bins full of food!) was stored, and introduced them to a few of his sled dogs.
Maybe you can have a discussion in class, comparing and contrasting what most of the teachers have done and what Jim will do as Teacher on the Trail™.
Jim Deprez will get to report on two races, one from Ohio, and next year, from Alaska! Look for his articles under Teacher on the Trail™ tab in the Iditarod Education section of iditarod.com.
Until next time, this is your canine reporter,