#KPBSD James Harris is 2017 Alaska Teacher of Year

State Championship of Teaching!
2017 Alaska Teacher of the Year plus the Alternate Teacher of the Year are #KPBSD educators

Soldotna, December 6, 2016—Why is the the Alaska Commissioner of Education, Dr. Michael Johnson, visiting Soldotna High School? To surprise the 2017 Alaska Teacher of the Year during a crowded assembly of students and staff. And, more excellence: the 2017 Alternate Teacher of the Year is Stephanie Cronin, from KPBSD Seward High School!

“James Harris believes that the fundamental purpose of teaching literature is to connect students with the world,” Commissioner Johnson said. “That’s a very good definition of teaching in general. To his classroom, Mr. Harris brings his knowledge, passion, practical experience in writing, and empathy for students. He is an inspiring choice for Alaska Teacher of the Year.”

L-R: Soldotna High School Principal Tony Graham; James Harris, 2017 Alaska Teacher of the Year; KPBSD Superintendent Sean Dusek; Commissioner of Education, Dr. Michael Johnson


James Harris, Soldotna High School
2017 Alaska Teacher of the Year

“Yes, yes, yes!” will be the response Mr. Harris offers in 2017 when he is called upon to speak at education conferences and participate in various statewide education working groups. He will be a member of Commissioner Johnson’s teacher advisory group. The Alaska Teacher of the Year is the state’s nominee for national Teacher of the Year. Watch the James Harris learns he is 2017 Alaska Teacher of the Year Polycom video!

“I look at the profession of teaching as one of the most vital and important jobs in our country and I really hope to represent Alaska teachers and all they strive for!” – James Harris

A 12-year professional, James Harris has taught English at Soldotna High School for seven years. A published writer, editor, and college educator, he chairs the English department and professional development at his school, and coaches youth hockey. Harris says, “Through literature I hope to help my students empathize with the human story, open themselves up to the joys, sufferings, motivations, disappointments, and triumphs of others, and thus achieve a kinder and more complex understanding of themselves.”

Once students graduate, they start the stories of their own lives. Harris said he uses every skill, experience, talent, and tool at his command to give his students what they need to face their life choices armed with literacy, empathy, and a deeper sense of what they can contribute to our human community.

Mr. Harris holds a bachelor of arts degree in English from Western State College of Colorado, a master of fine arts degree in creative writing from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and a master of arts degree in teaching from the University of Alaska Southeast.

“James is an outstanding educator who always puts kids first. He makes a lasting impression on all the students he comes into contact with, whether in the classroom or in the hallway. He inspires hope, ignites imagination, and instills a love of learning. He is very deserving of this honor and it is a pleasure to work with him each and every day.” – Tony Graham, Soldotna High School principal

KPBSD Superintendent Sean Dusek said, “This is the State Championship of teaching! We are excited and humbled to have two of our teachers recognized as the best in our state! Congratulations to Mrs. Stephanie Cronin from Seward High School for being chosen as the alternate this year. She is and always has been an outstanding teacher. As for our new 2017 Alaska Teacher of the year, Mr. James Harris, I am very pleased his great effort with our students has been recognized at the state level. He is an excellent representative of the teachers in our district! It is truly a great day in our district as both of these outstanding individuals have earned the highest honors in our state.”



Past Alaska  Teachers of the Year from KPBSD include:

  • 1999 – Daniel Walker, Seward Middle-High School
  • 1988 – Sammy Crawford, Soldotna High School
  • 1976 – Gary Woodburn, Cooper Landing School


Video: Commissioner Johnson surprises James Harris to announce 2017 Alaska Teacher of the Year!
Webpage: Alaska Teacher of the Year
Story: 2017 Alaska Alternate Teacher of the Year, Stephanie Cronin
October 22, 2016 Commissioner Johnson Announces Finalists for Teacher of the Year


Check our social media sites for photos and stories!

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District
Contact: Pegge Erkeneff, 907.714.8888
News Release

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