KPBSD Kim Leslie, 2021 Alaska Teacher of the Year Finalist

Celebrate Ms. Kim Leslie, 2021 Alaska Teacher of the Year Finalist!

“My advice to students, or to all humans really, is to be mindful of what truly makes you feel at your best or the most alive. What activities or type of work? Being surrounded by which people? Learning about what? Nourish those elements in your life as much as you can. Do not be wooed by societal expectations about success and wealth; be wooed by your personal flourishment. I think I have done a decent job of that, and it has brought me significant happiness and a sense of balance. As a teacher this is huge: to be able to be a consistent, positive, joyful player in my students’ lives is no small thing. We can all serve our communities the best if we ourselves feel whole.”

One deeply moving part of my work is witnessing the return on investments in people.
“I watch students stand a little straighter, walk a little farther, and sometimes leap over hurdles simply because I (and other stakeholders in their world) said, “I believe in you.” I’m constantly asking students what they want to learn and understand about the world, and then I do my darndest to support them on that education journey. Depending on the student, that encouragement and support can yield incredible personalized outcomes that go so far beyond grades and transcripts. Like many teachers, I’ve had students reach out to me after many years and identify a moment, an assignment, or a conversation that we had that ended up spring boarding them into a positive new chapter in their life, from a career direction to a new geographical location to a new passion or hobby. Having those joyful impacts is powerful and enormously rewarding.”

“What do I want to learn?” graphic created by and frequently used by Kim Leslie

Teaching and learning as part of KPBSD’s Distance Learning department can be such a rich experience.
“Whatever bad taste may be left in people’s mouths from the forced “remote” learning during Covid should not be associated with what we do. I am proud of the intentionality, best practices, diverse learning tasks, and love that goes into the development and facilitation of the courses we offer. Honestly, when I first joined KBPSD as a Distance teacher, I thought it would be a short lived stepping stone toward getting into a “real” classroom. How wrong I was! The positive relationships I form with many of my students and the depth of learning we are able to explore together are incredible. I am fueled by the questions and curiosities my students share, the amazing learning tasks and experiences they bring to our courses, all of which makes each iteration of a course better than the last. I thrive with such a steep learning curve. I feel at my best as a teacher!”

Gulp Life
Kim Leslie’s Journey as an Educator
excerpt from her Teacher of the Year essay

“I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life…” ~Rachel Carson, scientist and author

When I was little, I would go on mini adventures in my backyard: ice skating down the brook behind our house, pushing aside spiderwebs to climb through the drainage pipe under the road (?!?), and trying to jump off a big rock with an umbrella in hopes I would “float” down to the ground. What was the first thing I would do when I met with an ounce of success? Invite someone else to join me. 

I’ve always been a life gulper, but pretty early on I realized the real joy and satisfaction came from sharing the gulps with others … my family, my friends, and ultimately my students. I didn’t realize I had become a teacher until I heard others tell me I was. My first teaching jobs were far from traditional: first a boarding school summer intern, then a naturalist at an outdoor education school. To this day, I have never had a completely “normal” classroom teaching job!

In fact, joining KPBSD’s distance team has been the most “out of the box” position yet! Pre-COVID I always needed my elevator speech handy when people asked what I did; “well, my office is in Seward but my students are all over the Kenai Peninsula…” Now people have a bit more of an understanding.

I design courses rich with information and engaging learning tasks in Canvas, primarily work with my students asynchronously, and the feedback cycles that happen in text, recorded video and Zoom fuel the heart of their learning. Often my students’ curiosities, hopes and dreams guide what we dig into the most. I can honestly say that I learn more from them in the end: They share their gulps with me! 

About Ms. Leslie

“Kim Leslie is the epitome of a highly skilled 21st Century teacher. She has the unique ability to make her blended online learning classes a truly personal experience for her students. From day one in her class, her students know that she cares about them and will tailor the instruction to meet their personal interests. Having Kim on our team of KPBSD teachers is a gift to KPBSD and to her students.” –Superintendent John O’Brien

“Kim Leslie is a genuinely amazing person. She cares deeply about the students and their understanding of science. She teaches with a divergent approach. She allows students to demonstrate their understanding on their terms using their strengths. Her mind is extremely strong and her heart is always in the right place! She is incredible and KPBSD is lucky to have her on the team.” –Reubin Payne, Connections Homeschool advisor

Kim and her student, Anna, who ultimately won the Caring for the Kenai Competition in 2020

“Ms. Leslie made life-long impacts on my two girls in ways I could never have imagined possible. She taught them that science is for everyone-not just boys, not just smart kids, and not just science fanatics. Using the framework of the NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards), she unfurled an all-inclusive science: science for dancers, dreamers, dirt-divas, and daredevils. She brings science to life through building authentic connections with her students and their lives. … To say that Kim is a pioneer of quality online teaching is a vast understatement, as is stating that she is an exceptional educator!” –Shona DeVolld, parent

“Her commitment to students extends far beyond the classroom, and that is what sets Ms. Leslie apart from other teachers: she is literally a life-changer. My story began in 2018 when she encouraged me to enter a local environmental competition called Caring for the Kenai. When I was chosen as a top 12 contender, Ms. Leslie drove all the way from Seward to Kenai just to see me present my idea to the judges. Even though it had nothing to do with her class, she wanted to be there to support me, and I know she would do the same for any of her students. It was because of Ms. Leslie that I decided to carry out my idea; I am a President’s Environmental Youth Award Winner and an entrepreneur at age 15 as a result of her genuine interest in my life. This is only one example of the many lives she has changed over the years, and that is what makes her so amazing. Ms. Leslie is already Alaska’s Teacher of the Year in my book!” –Anna DeVolld, student

Kim Leslie being lifted up (literally) by her great friend, colleague and mentor, Amanda Adams

“Ms. Leslie has continually grown in her leadership. She continually partners with colleagues in reflective and collaborative work to deepen impactful practice. She is an inaugural member of the Personalized Learning Champs which are a group of teacher leaders in our district who are driving innovation in the classroom and actively sharing and leading those at their sites through sharing professional development resources and workshops. Kim has continually been a leading member of the Distance Education team always striving to build connective practices that support students and their learning regardless of location. Additionally, she has supported several school sites on a continual basis sharing her knowledge and experience in educational technology and pedagogy of online and blended teaching. Kim continually presents to leaders (teachers and administrators) in the district. These are three examples of sharing her expertise through presentations that she has given. Cultivating Reflection in Teaching Practice (; Personalize Outcomes – A Course Design Mindset Shift (; and Balancing Online and Offline Work ( Ms. Leslie has also contributed at conferences like Elevating and Celebrating Teachers and Teaching (ECET2) Southcentral ( and the Alaska Society for Technology in Education conference on more than one occasion, including a redesign of the Cultivating Reflection district presentation ( and several others! She has even reached beyond the Alaskan borders to present at the U.S. Distance Learning Association’s conference with The Importance of Community – Building Collaborative Online Learning Tasks ( Kim has developed procedures for onboarding new Distance Education teachers and continually mentors new members to the team. She is a vital component of our district and a wonderful contribution to our profession.” –Amanda Adams, KPBSD Lead Innovation Designer


IMAGES from above, and remainder here

  1. “What do I want to learn?” graphic created by and frequently used by Kim Leslie Kim and student Anna DeVolld
  2. Kim Leslie being lifted up (literally) by her great friend, colleague and mentor, Amanda Adams
  3. Jason, Indigo and Kim Leslie hiking on Mt. Alice in their home town of Seward
  4. Kim Leslie (center) and some of her bellydance troupe 
  5. Indigo, Jason and Kim Leslie packrafting in Lake Clark National Park

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