January 19, 2005: Headlines: COS - Niger: Awards: Secondary Education: Mitchell County Press News: Niger RPCV Joe Marley was selected by the Alaska Association of Secondary School Principals to be the 2004 Small School Principal of the Year

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Niger: Peace Corps Niger : The Peace Corps in Niger: January 19, 2005: Headlines: COS - Niger: Awards: Secondary Education: Mitchell County Press News: Niger RPCV Joe Marley was selected by the Alaska Association of Secondary School Principals to be the 2004 Small School Principal of the Year

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Niger RPCV Joe Marley was selected by the Alaska Association of Secondary School Principals to be the 2004 Small School Principal of the Year

Niger RPCV  Joe Marley  was selected by the Alaska Association of Secondary School Principals to be the 2004 Small School Principal of the Year

Niger RPCV Joe Marley was selected by the Alaska Association of Secondary School Principals to be the 2004 Small School Principal of the Year

Alaska teacher has Riceville roots

by Mary Loden

Press-News Reporter

Caption: Joe Marley, teacher and principal at the Ella B. Vernetti School in Alaska, (center) speaks to one of his students during one of their fall camp- outs. (Contributed photos courtesy of Susan Paskvan from the Yukon-Koyukuk School District.)

Joe Marley, a 1988 graduate of Riceville High School, was recently selected by the Alaska Association of Secondary School Principals to be the 2004 Small School Principal of the Year.

The criteria for this award included successfully implementing the school and district's objectives, anticipating and resolving problems in the classroom and using community resources to enhance the quality of education for all students in his district.

Joe served as principal/teacher for the Yukon-Koyukuk School District from 2000 to 2004 and currently develops and delivers the distance delivery courses from his current home in Wisconsin.

From 1998 to 2000 he was the fifth-grade through 10th-grade general education instructor and also was the manager for the Russian River Ferry for Alaska Recreational Management where he was the skipper of an 18-passenger ferry.

Prior to his career in Alaska Joe and his wife Sharon were Peace Corps volunteers from 1994 to 1998 in Sounga Me, Niger West Africa where they worked as agricultural extension agents to increase ag production.

"The Peace Corps was my wife's idea, I wanted to go to Alaska," Joe said during a recent phone interview, "but it was the best thing I ever did." The things they learned as Corps volunteers have carried over into every facet of their lives.

Since Sharon has a biology degree in environmental science from Winona State University in Minnesota, her choice to work with the Peace Corps is understandable, but why Alaska?

Chuckling a little at the question Joe, who also graduated from Winona State with a teaching degree, responded, "Adventure! And they were paying teachers better than most states at the time."

After returning from Africa the couple spent one month at home before heading to Joe's new position at the Ella B. Vernetti School in the Yukon-Koyukuk School District in Alaska. "There were 20 kids in the whole school," he said. The children were divided into two classes, kindergarten through fourth-grade and fifth-grade through 12th grade."There was just me and one other teacher."

He explained that most of Alaska, with the exception of its two large cities of Anchorage and Fairbanks, is made up of small villages with populations between 50 and 200 people. The school he was to teach at was located in a village approximately 350 miles from Fairbanks, Alaska. There were no roads, so they only way to get to the village was to be flown in, although during the months between mid October and the end of April people could travel to neighboring villages by snowmobile on the frozen Yukon River.

After his third year as a teacher he also took on the role of school principal. In her letter of nomination for the principal of the year award Roxie Quick, kindergarten through fourth-grade teacher, wrote, "While here in Koyukuk Joe raised student annual test scores, developed culturally rich lesson plans and activities, and increased parent participation and community support in all around functions with the school. The Culturally Based Programs Joe implemented kept the native subsistence lifestyle alive with the children who would not have had the opportunity to experience this part of their heritage without his efforts and dedication."

Joe said that the first few years he and his wife were there he learned a lot about the people and studied their heritage. He found out that since many of the kids came from broken families a lot of knowledge on their ancestry, heritage and traditions weren't being passed on. The Elders in the village still carried on the old ways, but they weren't taking fatherless boys in hand and passing their knowledge down to them.

So Joe did what he could. On weekends he got a sled and taught the boys how to trap. He also incorporated other skills such as tanning hides and snowshoe making into classroom activities and brought in Elders from other villages to share their knowledge. "His programs were taken to other villages along the Yukon River in order to allow the children to be with other Athabascan students and learn from these same lessons.," Quick wrote.

While in Alaska Joe and Sharon started their family. Charley is now four-years-old and Sam, who is almost six-years-old, just started kindergarten. The boys were the biggest reason why the Marleys left Alaska. "We wanted to be closer to family," Joe said and he believes, "the school system in the Midwest is just 100-times better."

The Marleys are now living and building a house in Wisconsin but that doesn't stop Joe from working with his Alaskan students on a full-time basis. He teaches biology to 10 schools in the Yukon-Koyukuk School District using the internet and a video system (similar to the ICN used in schools here). The students can see Joe and talk to him, but they take all their tests on-line and Joe does all the correcting and scoring.

He said that he also has an on-line program set up with four courses - art/science, biology, U.S. History and health - for children who are home schooled. They don't have the advantage of seeing Joe, but he has tried to make sure that kids in the classroom and kids at home are getting the same curriculum and tests. "It's one of my goals to give the home-schooled kids something much better than in the past," Joe said.

"I'm staying busy, that's for sure," he said. "But a busy life is a good life.

"I'm lucky I can do it from my home this year. It was easier making the transition coming back down here," Joe replied.

So, what does the future hold in store for him. "I'm trying to set up 12 classes on-line for teachers at rural sites to use," Joe said. He explained that there are lots of lesson plans out there but it would be so much easier for the teachers if he could put together something that met Alaska's standards and the district's curriculum. He has four courses completed now and would like to have the remaining eight finished by the end of next year.

His courses have been developed for special education or special needs students in mind. The subject matter and tests meet all the requirements of a high school class, but they have been written on a fourth-grade reading level with a lot of pictures Joe explained. He said his course catches those students who fall through the cracks in the system for one reason or another.

Joe said he would also like to set up another video class for the Alaskan classrooms and package his program to sell to other school districts in the United States. Some students in Wisconsin are already taking his biology class on-line for extra credit. "We'll see where it goes," he said.

Editor's note: Marley's father and step-mother are Dave and Jan Marley of rural Riceville. His brother, Jay Marley and sister Sara Grimm are both teachers in the Osage school district).

When this story was posted in January 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Mitchell County Press News

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Niger; Awards; Secondary Education



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