News and Events of the Bering Strait School District
Sunday February 18th 2018



The Whale Boat

Gambell Skin Boat

By Brad Cole, Gambell
18 Oct. 2007

The first things I noticed when stepping outside through the back door of the school’s shop class were the earth-toned colors on the rawhide of the twenty-five foot skin boat. It sat in the cold whistling wind upside down, tied to a couple of large oil drums that were lying on the gravel. The hide had all the colors of autumn: faded yellows, dusty oranges, rusty reds and crème browns all covering the thick and tight as a drum skin that stretched across the hull. The frame was made from long hickory sticks bent to give it shape. I could see them pushing out against the oily skin like ribs on a thin hairless dog.

The shop students of John Apangalook High School and Hugo T. Elementary School in Gambell had just finished building it. The boat was only the third one to be made in the school’s history. The last one was completed in the early Nineties.

Many volunteers came from the community to help. The large female walrus skins, and one more for patching, were sewn by Susan Campbell, Ila Ungott, Shirleen Apassingok, and Charlene Apangalook. Other volunteers were Anders and Merle Apassingok, Ralph Apatiki Sr., Clement Ungott, and Holden Apatiki. The shop teacher John Apassingok assisted by Chris Koonooka worked with the Principal, Steve Petz to oversee the completion of the project.

Two locals, Robert and Trudy Apatiki, bought the completed boat in a silent auction from the school on the 12th of October 2007 for the price of $5020.00.

Many locals prefer the traditional skin boats to the modern metal ones. Skin boats handle better in rough seas, can carry more weight and people, yet are still light enough to carry across rough sea ice. Most importantly they are quieter, making it easier to get close to the whales.

The wind was getting colder and seeing the frost covering the mountain behind the school further chilled me. I remembered being told a week earlier that Gambell was the only village in the world that still hunted whales with sails on their skin boats. What a beautiful and rare tradition to be distinguished by, I thought. Smiling to myself, I looked at the bulging belly of the autumn colored boat and imagined a giant walrus growing wings out into the wind while splashing across the sea to hunt bowhead whales.
It is a charming boat, I thought, and then thinking of my own work to be done and feeling the cold wind I turned around and went back inside the school.

From left to Right: Elmer Rookok, John Apassingok, Robert & Trudy Apatiki, Jordy Tungiyan.


StraitTalk Dead Tree Edition Sent to Press


The StraitTalk publication will be printed this week in the Nome Nugget. Keep your eyes open for this paper edition of our blog.

If you simply can’t wait, you might be able to figure out the web address to the actual StraitTalk document that was sent to the Nugget for publishing. (hint: It’s not saved as a jpeg; it’s much more portable.) If you are able to find it, be sure the put the link in the comments to get the recognition you deserve.


Shishmaref Students and Staff Learn First Aid and CPR

Lori Geary tries to resuscitate Baby Anne.October 9-11, Shishmaref student and staff learned First Aid and CPR from Tom Vaden, NSHC EMT. Tom was brought out for the training to help students fulfill their life skills standards that require certification in those two areas and also help teachers/coaches maintain current certification. These skills are very important not only to fulfill standards but also to help save lives of family members and friends while traveling or at home.

Trainees learned the steps to take when approaching a scene of an accident. Tom Vaden, NSHC First Aid Trainer, shows proper dressing techniques of a gun shot wound to the back.They learned the ABC’s (airway, breathing, and circulation) and the new techniques for CPR requiring 30 chest compressions and 2 breaths. Students were able to practice on Resuscitation Anne and Baby Anne to show proficiency in CPR and rescue breathing. We also learned how to control bleeding on various parts of our bodies including gun shot wounds to the chest and were able to practice on a partner and techniques to remove airway obstructions from choking victims.

Kate Kokeok and Ken Stenek were able to attend to some additional training with Tom so that they could become trainers for the school and community in the future. The training was very good and incorporated realistic video segments to demonstrate the techniques to be applied in real life situations.

BSSD Graduates Experiencing Success at UAA

On September 11 and 12, I had the good fortune of meeting and interviewing 12 young adults who are experiencing success in their pursuit of higher education. The terrific thing that all of these 12 young adults had in common is that they were all graduates of the Bering Strait School District.

I traveled to the University of Alaska, Anchorage and set up post at the Native Student Services Center, which, I should mention, is a terrific resource and support system for our native students. The purpose of my visit was to make contact with the students who graduated from our district and who are now pursuing degrees at UAA. I wanted to ask them some questions about the things that have helped them get to this point in their lives – a point on a path that will lead them to achieving their goals and ambitions. There wasn’t a single interview that wasn’t emotionally moving. It was clear that one of the greatest motivators common among most all of the graduates is that they want to be role models for those younger than them. They want to be a source of hope and pride for those of their home villages and surrounding communities. These twelve graduates are an inspiration to all students in the Bering Strait School District.

As the Coordinator of Program Support for BSSD, two of my many focal points will be expanding our district’s post-graduate follow-up and providing support for those BSSD students who wish to pursue post-secondary education. I plan to make similar visits to other post-secondary institutions throughout the state. We will also be doing some tracking of graduates who are already out of post-secondary institutions and are established in careers. At the high school level, we are coordinating monthly video conferences, in conjunction with the Native Student Services Program at UAA, for juniors and seniors. We will explore all types of post-secondary education, from Job Corps and AVTEC, to the University system. We will provide support for students through the enrollment and financial aid processes, as well as anyplace else that they may need assistance.

There are amazing opportunities out there for our students, and our students have the potential to reach their dreams. The sky is the limit!

Aniguiin High School Student Achieves Certified Nursing Assistance Through NACTEC

My Certified Nursing Assistant Training Reflection Essay

It all started when the Counselor Tom App took me out of class and asked me what I am going to do with my future. I told him that I always wanted to be in the Health Field. He said that there was a great opportunity for me to accomplish this. He informed that there was a program through NACTEC that will pay for my training. I started to do research on what Certified Nursing Assistants perform and the job descriptions. Soon I was filling out applications, and was accepted. I then received my textbooks and started to study.

My first class was on April 23rd, 2007 at 6 o’clock p.m. We did audio conferences for three weeks doing class work. Our instructor was a Registered Nurse but she is now a Certified Nursing Assistant Instructor. After three weeks I then flew into Nome and stayed at N.A.C.T.E.C. They paid for everything. We met at the UAF campus and they told us our expectations and guidelines. We then had more workbook and textbook work with our instructor registered nurse, Wayne Christiansen. Christiansen practiced skills with us over the next week, the skills that we would be tested on in front of a Licensed Nurse.

On our second week at Nome, Alaska another C.N.A Instructor did more skills with us while doing bookwork. We did quizzes along with our classes. The quizzes counted for 10% of our grade. If you passed the quiz then 10% of your grade was passed. I passed every quiz that they gave me. After a couple of days we had to do Basic First Aide. We then earned a Basic First Aide card. We had to have the card in order to be certified.

Three other adults, including myself, continued on our training in Fairbanks under an instructor mostly doing clinicals. We also had to study a pamphlet full of skills that we had to perform in front of State Observers. We had to pick a card that had five skills on it and perform those skills within twenty-five minutes. The pamphlet had over fifteen skills. There were difficult skills such as blood pressure and making an occupied bed. We performed the skills on fellow classmates. During study nights my classmates and I practiced and studied. I met a very inspirational lady from Shishmaref, and Her husband was in Iraq serving our country.

I think that my training was a great experience and I will enjoy what I do. I met very nice people and I would not change my choice of job for anything. I would recommend anybody to try Certified Nursing Assistant training. I get to take care of my people as they took care of me. At the end of this month a lady from KAWERAK is going to come to Elim and talk about a possible job in elder care. There are so many elders that need to be taken care of. I cannot wait to help my village out. It is great because, the elders do not have to leave home if they do not want to. Of course I will accept to take care of a limited number of respected elders.

For the hard work I performed, I asked my NACTEC supervisor to take me to the Denali National Park. She also wanted to go there. So she drove us approximately three to four hours to and from Fairbanks, which was nice of her. The trip took us a whole Saturday. We drove and then bought bus tickets for a bus tour. We saw the land of beauty. The Fairbanks area is so majestic. We drove and did not see any large wildlife. We used binoculars and spied at Mountain Dull sheep. I also took living tapestry memorandum pictures. She took me out to eat at Subway where we ate expensively and good. It was just a three-table sight seeing spot. I can’t help to say the weather was terrible of degrees over 80 and humidity low on some days but too much on other days. I also went to the UAF museum and enjoyed the adventure of Fairbanks. I saw my first out-door fishpond and it was cute.

I would like to congratulate my fellow trainees and wish you all luck and hope you achieve endeavors like this one.

Leigh Takak

October 08, 2007


Child Find Notice

Bering Strait School District

Child Find Notice

Bering Strait School District is required by federal and state law (34 CFR 300.220.34 CFR 300.121) to conduct an annual “Child Find” effort as a means to locate, identify and evaluate every student with a suspected disability or giftedness within its jurisdiction.

Eligible students are entitled to a free and appropriate education, including specially designed individualized instruction for disabled students between the ages of 3 and 21. This law applies to EVERY eligible child, regardless of the severity of the disability and assures confidentiality procedures are followed.

If you suspect that your child has a disability (emotional, mental or physical) and does not receive Special Education services, contact the principal or the special education teacher in your village.

Disabilities that qualify for Special Education services include:

Autism, Deaf/Blind, Developmentally Delayed, Emotionally Disturbed, Hearing Impaired, Learning Disabled, Mentally Retarded, Multiple Disabilities, Other Health Impaired, Orthopedically Impaired, Speech/ Language, Traumatic Brain Injury, Visually Impaired

For more information, please contact your school
OR Rebecca Concilus, BSSD Child Find Coordinator at:
Bering Strait School District
Special Education Department
P.O. Box 225, Unalakleet, AK 99684
(907) 624-4278


Posting a picture

Here is a short clip on how to post an image in WordPress. I’ve been getting lots of questions on this topic, so hopefully this helps some of you. Leave a comment on the blog if you have any other topics that you’d like me to cover.


Birds of Shishmaref Blog

As the science teacher in Shishmaref with a degree in Biology, there are many things that I find interesting about the local environment in Shishmaref. I have found birds interesting for a long time and after purchasing a nice digital camera, I’ve been doing some local birding.

Birds of Shishmaref Blog Page

Climate change is impacting Shishmaref by accelerating the rate of erosion on our narrow island. As the island’s size decreases the amount of habitat that the birds have to use also decreases. As the amount of habitat decreases the amount of competition for resources will increase. I am hoping that by taking photos and documenting the birds that inhabit the island, we will know if a species no longer uses the island.

So far I have taken pictures of eleven species of birds here on the island and have them up on a blog page at my science class blog site titled Birds of Shishmaref. (

Birds of Shishmaref

Students can apply Life Science Ecology standards through this page as I discussed earlier. Students can also learn about the taxonomy of birds. Birds are in the Kingdom: Animalia, Phylum: Chordata, Class: Aves, and the different Orders, Families, Genus, and Species are all listed for each. In the blog, there is a short discussion about identifying the birds and interesting facts about them like where they are found or how far they migrate.

Hopefully I will be able to add a couple of species that stay around during the winter but the most interesting time will be during the spring time when the migratory birds return in their mating colors.

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