The Yup’ik Immersion School here in Bethel, called Ayaprun Elitnaurvik, held special yearend awards on Tuesday, followed by a potluck. One of the founding members of the school, and to whom the school is named after, Ayaprun Loddie Jones, was given a prestigious award from the Alaska Native Knowledge Network.
“ waqaa, says Principal Paniguaq Chadwell, “waqaa!” reply the student body in happy voices. The old National Guard Armory was filled with over one hundred thirty (130) kindergarten to sixth (6th) grade students in addition to the staff and family of Ayaprun Elitnaurvik.
“this is a special award, brought to me be a different group, Ayaprun would you come up please,” said Principal Paniguaq to the audiences’ applause.
Ayaprun Jones is recognized by the Center for Cross-Cultural Studies at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, in recognition of the late Dr. Oscar Kawagley’s role in articulating the significance of indigenous knowledge systems, ways of knowing and world views as they apply in today’s world.
The Alaska Native Knowledge Network established the Oscar Kawagley Indigenous Knowledge Practitioners Award in his honor. The award is intended to recognize and encourage indigenous knowledge practitioners who have made exemplary contributions to the understanding of Indigenous Knowledge Systems and native ways of knowing Alaska.
“ the 2013 award is presented to you, Ayaprun Jones, based on your tireless effort to establish the Ayaprun Elitnaurvik Yup’ik Immersion school, congratulation on being chosen as a recipient for the award,” read Principal Paniguaq from the plaque.
Ayaprun Special Education teacher, Sandy Morse, who is a first year teacher at Ayaprun, says the Ayaprun Elitnaurvik is not like no other school she has taught in. Morse says the students even consider the word “stupid” to be one of the swear words.
“I just feel really fortunate to be a part of the school, I’m so impressed with how kind and respectful the students are,” says Morse,
“they work really hard and they approach their tasks with a lot of determination, but I’m really impressed at how they take care of each other too, you don’t see that in other places, I taught for 30 years before I came up here, these kids aren’t selfish, I guess it’s part of the culture.”
Part of Ayaprun Elitnaurvik’s success is the longevity of it’s Yup’ik faculty and staff. Principal Paniguaq recognized some of the faculty for their longevity by handing out a 5 year pin to second (2nd) grade teacher Arnaqulluk Westlake, two 15 year pins to third (3rd) grade teacher Angass’aq Samson and English language teacher Uyaquq Neth, secretary Qaskilnguq Charlie was recognized for 20-years of service, and last year second (2nd) grade teacher Inuuqaar Dahl, who is still teaching, was recognized for 30 years of service.