Joel Isaak, Skyview High School, Class of 2007, is a practicing artist, currently enrolled in an Indigenous Studies doctorate degree program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and the Tribal Liaison for the State of Alaska Department of Education and Early Learning. Isaak says,
“I want to keep growing in learning my Dena’ina people’s language. I love spending time with elders learning language and material culture and passing it on to future generations.”
When he reflects on a message to younger students, or his younger self, he offers:
“Find quality people and focus your energy on working with them. Don’t let negativity or people who are trying to bring you down stop you from working hard towards your goals. Never put an age limit on friendship.”
Following his 2007 graduation from the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, he was awarded a Bachelors of Fine Arts Sculpture from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and Masters of Fine Arts in Sculpture from Alfred University in New York.
A man with exceptional talents and kind insightful eyes, Joel said, “I would spend hours of time in the art studio after school when I was in high school. This was a safe space for me to learn, do homework, and develop my artistic skill. I had fantastic art teachers. I began my undergraduate studies pursuing a chemistry degree. After several car accidents, I was no longer able to do lab work. I had a friend mentor who encouraged me to pursue art. I still have to be careful with the physical repercussions of my injuries but I am able to work prolifically in sculpture.” His art is truly fantastic; view the video featuring Joel: Fins of Fashion: The Alaskan Artist Creating Salmon Skin Stilettos, and visit his website at https://joelisaak.com/.
Shout-out to special teachers
“Teachers inspired me to follow my career path. I now work in education and I had some amazing teachers in my K-12 and university studies. These teachers became mentors to me and encouraged me to learn and explore a diverse range of studies. I would like to thank several of my teachers from my high school years—they provided safe classroom space for me in school when I was going through a lot. Thank you to David Schmidt and Clark Fair for letting me eat lunch in their classrooms on a regular basis, Teri Zoph-Schoessler, and all of my art teachers at Skyview.”
“I am passionate about developing an educational model that addresses the clashing of European colonialism with indigenous peoples. Fundamental to healing this rift is stemming the loss indigenous languages and treating all people with respect. This need is evidence by the staggering history of abuse of women that needs to stop. I hope that my art and working to educate can help bring awareness and change in a positive direction.”
–Joel Isaak, Skyview High School Class of 2007
Today his home is back on the Kenai Peninsula, he works with DEED, creates meaningful art, and continues to pursue life with purpose and passion.
Do you have a story tip about a KPBSD graduate to profile in our Wednesday Inspiration? Kindly email Pegge Erkeneff, KPBSD communications liaison, Pegge@KPBSD.org.