Taryn Williams is a teacher in Alaska.
I’ve lived and worked in the Alaskan Bush for two years, and it’s been one of the most incredible experiences of my life.
The view from Williams’ front door, during winter.
I grew up in Massachusetts and have lived in many different places. Prior to 2020, I was living and teaching in Germany and had plans to move to the Dominican Republic.
Williams backpacking on an Alaskan mountaintop.
After COVID-19 hit and my initial plans disintegrated, I took a teaching position in Alaska that I found on Indeed.
Locals going out on a ‘skiff’ (local word for a boat).
My village, Perryville, is located on the Ring of Fire, the rim of the Pacific Ocean where many volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur. The land belongs to the Alutiiq/Sugpiaq people.
The view from Williams’ front door at sunset.
Source: Alutiiq Museum
The Alaskan Bush refers to the parts of Alaska that aren’t accessible by the road system. My village is approximately three hours from Anchorage by plane and has about 89 residents.
Rock formations along the beach.
Source: World Population Review
Living here is quite expensive, but my district pays more than districts on the road system and also helps with airfare to Anchorage and back. Overall, I make about $10,000 to $15,000 more than I would if I taught in the Lower 48.
Some of the rock formations around the village.
Source: U.S. News & World Report
I’m a secondary generalist teacher, which means I’m responsible for all subjects for grades eight and up. This year, I only have five students in my class, and I love that I’m able to spend more time with each student.
A design featuring Perryville school’s mascot on the gym floor.
There are many challenges to teaching multiple grades and subjects at once, but it also has its benefits. I have a lot of flexibility to choose curricula and materials that are culturally responsive and relevant to my students.
A map showing the earthquakes in Alaska in 2020.
Alaska Earthquake Center
I live in a large house that holds four two-bedroom apartments — one apartment for each teacher at my school (an elementary, middle school, high school, and special education teacher).
The building Williams lives in; it has four apartments in total.
The walk from my house to school is short — about three minutes long — and scenic. I usually reach school between 6:30 and 7 a.m.
The boardwalk between my house and the school, with a view of the school.
We don’t have a principal in the village, so I’m responsible for many administrative duties, such as picking up people — and freight — from the planes that come in. A plane arrives at least once per day, except when the weather is bad. I order most of my groceries this way.
Freight sitting next to a Navajo plane, with an eagle perched on top.
I implement a lot of interdisciplinary teaching to keep my students engaged. As part of a unit on art around the world, we completed paintings in George Seurat’s style of Pointillism.
A colorful art piece created by William’s colleague.
Taryn Williams/McKenna Conselyea/Insider
It’s important for me to get outside after school, so I often head right home and go for a run or a hike.
The view from one of the hills in the village.
Two of my favorite places to go to are our tsunami shelter or the beach. The tsunami shelter is two miles from the ocean and is where we congregate when there’s a tsunami warning (usually following a large earthquake).
The view from the beach.
I also usually take a few photos from the tsunami shelter, as the view never gets old. It’s possible to see the whole eleven miles of our village from up there.
The view from the tsunami shelter.
Living here allows me to have time for activities I enjoy, such as cooking and baking.
I usually spend a full hour cooking dinner each night, as it’s one of my favorite hobbies.
Living in such a remote area means getting creative with pantry ingredients and more durable produce. As a vegetarian, this means I cook and eat a lot of lentils, beans, and root vegetables. Lentil dahl is one of my regular staples.
Dahl, inspired by Cookie and Kate’s recipe.
Subsistence living — or living off of the land — is common in the region that I live in. I don’t hunt, but I do like to spend time picking berries in the summer and fall.
Freshly picked Tundra blueberries.
I often get to catch Alaskan sunrises and sunsets, especially in the winter when there aren’t as many hours of sunlight. The long hours of darkness don’t bother me, but I know it’s tough for many people.
The view of the school’s other housing unit at sunset.
Each night, I read for at least 30 minutes before going to bed — I go to bed on the earlier side, usually around 9 p.m. I prefer beach books, as they’re light and easy to read before falling asleep.
Living here has allowed me to create a life that’s different from anything I’ve known and has taught me to be adaptable.
Taryn Williams in Alaska.
I’m content with the life that I’ve built here and grateful for the community that’s accepted me. Every day brings new opportunities, and I’m continuously astounded by the beauty of the place I get to call my home.
The village at sunset, during winter, from Williams’ front door.