The FUNd Stuff at PNA!

Education is not preparation for life, education is life itself.

- John Dewey


Mr. Johnson shows off what kind of shirt NOT to wear during the PNA Dress Code Fashion Show at our first Assembly of the Year.

Every once in a great while, at the beginning of the school year, a student might ask, "What's going to happen in math this year?" or "I wonder what books we'll be reading?" but in our experience those questions pale in importance to the ones they have about their new social environment. "Are there going to be new kids in my class this year? I wonder if I will like them? I wonder if they will like me? What if they are mean to me?" At PNA, social climate is as important as math comprehension and exploration in science. We promise our families we are a safe place for kids to learn in and we take that promise seriously. Now more than ever kids need a place where they can be themselves - free of prejudice and judgment - and where they learn to be exactly what they need - free of prejudice and judgment.

“What Are Your Hopes and Dreams for the School Year?”

During Inservice, PNA teachers ask this question of each other to solidify the goals they share as a faculty, to learn what they are striving for individually, and to model to parents and students the same behaviors they will soon be asking of their students. The payoffs? A unified teaching team for students, support from each other to reach their individual goals, and foundations for friendships that can only add to their teaching experience at PNA.

Hopes and Dreams, a part of the Responsive Classroom approach, are explored with students in the first weeks of school, from the littlest learners to the 8th graders. It helps students get excited about learning in general and to make individual connections with teachers and each other to the subjects they will encounter during the year. Inviting students to name learning goals (hopes and dreams) right away shows them that PNA is a safe place, that teachers consider them important members of the classroom, and that they can look forward to an engaging, challenging, and fun year with each other.

Besides setting a tone of purposeful learning, we've found that inviting students to articulate their learning goals for the year is also an important first step in co-creating classroom rules. For example, after students share their goals with the class, a teacher might say, “You’ve had a chance to read everyone’s hopes and dreams. Let’s start thinking of some rules that can help us work together really well and allow everyone to reach their goals.”

This process has proven to be so important in those awkward adolescent years that the Middle School takes three days to "retreat" to Solid Rock Camp on the Kenai Peninsula and spend quality time together participating in team-building activities, setting goals, and just getting to know one another. It's a bonding experience that is an essential element of PNA's compassionate and caring student community.

After they return, the whole school - teachers and students - will spend a day together at Ruth Arcand Park. Middle School shares some of what they've just experienced with the younger kids while playing games and making friends. Don't be surprised if your second grader's new best buddy happens to be a seventh grader; they probably had a great time on the same Ultimate Frisbee team or telling jokes on the walk over to the park!

​If you'd like to read more about social emotional skills and what exactly that means, check out Mind Shift's blog post about the subject here:

What Do We Mean When We Say ‘Social And Emotional Skills’?

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit

New Faces, New Friends

So the question we heard a lot this August: Are there any new kids in my class? And the answer is (for most classes) YES! We welcomed twenty-four new students and their families to PNA this week. So, if you see someone you don't know, just introduce yourself. There's no better way to make friends than to just stick out your hand and say "hi". And don't be surprised if one of those new Beginners shakes it right back; they are quite the handshakers already!

The other big question kids (and their parents!) have: Who is my teacher? This year we have a lot of new faces, both in the classroom and after school. Please, say hello and welcome them to PNA, too!

Amy Bethka - Early Kindergarten

Amy has been working in educational settings for over 10 years. She has experience as a wilderness therapy instructor, a one-on-one behavioral counselor, and as an early childhood educator. In recent years she has worked in both special needs and preschool classrooms for the Anchorage School District. She has a Bachelors degree in English and Global Studies. Amy loves learning and the outdoors, and believes all children need ample time outside and creative projects to explore. She was born and raised in Alaska, lived in North Idaho for a number of years, and has been back in Anchorage for 7 years. If it is summer you can find Amy fishing and camping. If is is winter she will be skiing and reading.

Brenna McCormick - Kindergarten

Mrs. McCormick is an elementary teacher and reading specialist who thinks teaching is the best job in the world. She has a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and a Master of Education in Reading. A Pennsylvania native, she has taught in Alaska, Virginia, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Thailand. When she's not teaching, you'll find her reading, hiking, exploring Alaska, and spending all the time she can with her husband and their sweet Great Dane puppy. She enjoys teaching because she loves seeing the world through her students eyes and being reminded to take the time to explore and discover the wonder of our world.

Kaylyn Wardrip - First Grade

Kaylyn is joining the PNA team after several years experience as a classroom teacher in the Lower 48. Her journey began after attending Indiana University, where she studied Elementary Education and was a part of the Navajo Nations Project. After graduating, Kaylyn began her career by immersing herself in the Navajo culture and teaching first grade just outside Albuquerque, New Mexico. Following the reservation, Kaylyn worked closely with the Next Science Generation Standards and Northwestern University to implement NGSS driven units into her 3rd grade classroom. Kaylyn moved to Anchorage this summer from Chicago and she is so very excited to explore, learn and collaborate with the PNA community!

Charlotte Woodside - Sixth Grade

Ms. Woodside comes to PNA with over seven years experience teaching middle school language arts and math. Charlotte's background includes a Bachelor's and MBA in finance and accounting; however, she realized after a year in this field that teaching was and is her passion. "I absolutely love teaching and have a true passion for it. Helping students grow in any subject while helping them make good life decisions and set future goals is a dream job that I look forward to every day." Charlotte recently moved to Anchorage from Kileen, Texas.

Martina Henke - Seventh Grade

Mrs. Henke has been an educator since 1986, when she began teaching in Fountain, Colorado. She moved to Alaska in 1987 and began teaching in the Anchorage School District in 1989. Martina taught all elementary grades during her 18 years in the classroom before she moved to a position as an educational technology support teacher and later a director of language arts curriculum. She received her BA in Elementary Education at Western State College in Gunnison, CO and her Master’s in Educational Leadership from the University of Alaska, Anchorage. Her passion has always been to provide the power of rich, meaningful, integrated learning experiences to all students, and she is EXCITED to be back in the classroom working with students again!

Emani Secret - Early Childhood Teacher Assistant

Miss Emani moved to Alaska from Miami, Florida two years ago.. She graduated from Dimond High School in May. After taking the Early Childhood Education course at the King Career Center, she fell in love with the field and is currently working towards her CDA. She is attending UAA this fall, and when not studying or in the Early Kindergarten room, she enjoys reading and analyzing horror films, as well as taking photographs of her Alaskan adventures.

Faaleu Faumuina - Afterschool EDP Staff

Ms. Faumuina is part of the administrative staff at St. Mary's Playschool until school gets out, and then comes to hang out with the kids at PNA. She attended Compton Community College, serves as "Hannah's Closet" Community Closet Director, and spending time with her kids. When not playing a mean game of Candyland in the Library, she likes strumming my ukulele, rearranging her furniture and playing UNO with her kids.

Stacey Scarlett - Afterschool EDP Staff

Ms. Scarlett is a proud Jamaican-born American and grew up in NY and NJ. She went to Stony Brook University and majored in both Biology and Psychology, earned her Masters, and is now completing her PhD. She has mainly worked as a Behavior Analyst and loves to work with children. She believes children can achieve anything, and what we teach them as children is what they will have in their "toolbox" from when they are adults. She loves reading, traveling, dancing and music, and making people laugh.

Postcards from the Classroom

One of the best things about the first week of school is the excitement of the students to see what's new, what's changed and embrace what's stayed the same. What did your kids notice this week?

Click any picture to jump into the slideshow.

Like What You See?

Just a couple of dudes in the Number Corner, talking numbers...

You Can Support It!

Your gift benefits today's students and everyone's future.

Spread the word, and don't let PNA be Anchorage's best kept secret. Let your friends know!

To make a donation or refer a family to PNA, Call (907) 333-1080 and speak

with Jennie Tschappat, Director of Admissions and Communications.

Coming Right Up

Monday, September 5th

Labor Day Holiday - No School

Wednesday through Friday, September 6th-8th

Middle School Retreat

Solid Rock

Monday, September 11th

All School Outing

Thursday, September 14th

Curriculum Night

This is mandatory attendance for least one parent from each household.

This is an evening for parents only.

For a full listing of events, please visit

the Calendar page on our website!

Dear Friends and Families of PNA,

This year my girls, who started at PNA in the 2nd and 4th grades back in 2006, are both headed to UAA, one as a freshman and one as a junior. Watching kids coming in the door at PNA this week, I was taken right back to our first day, the uniform, the lunches from home, and the discovery of independent school magic.

I've talked with new parents who, after just three days, are already noticing how much happier their kids are. I keep thinking about my own kids discoveries of joy at school in unexpected places, and the tone in Hillary's voice as she talked about her college orientation leads me to believe she's just as excited now about finding that unexpected joy as she was in the 2nd grade. Good job, PNA!

As a staff, we have not let the fact that we aren't technically enrolled in elementary school stop us from furthering our own educations. In addition to new staff and a new Head of School, we have a new website, a new student information system, a new fundraising event, new projects in the works, and new ways of sharing it all with you. As we make new discoveries and test new ideas, we'll keep you apprised of what works and what's going back to the drawing board.

Here's to a great new school year, and to keeping the joy of learning alive and well in all of us!


Jennie Tschappat

Director of Communications

Just One More...

Singing his heart out for the love of the Latin language? Or maybe it was just because Santos missed those 7th graders so much!

Who's Behind this FUNd Stuff madness, anyway? The FUNd Stuff Editorial Staff

is Kathy Heinlein and Jennie Tschappat.

Guest Photographer this week: Sierra Mills

The FUNd Stuff is a bi-monthly (or so) publication from the staff, students, parents, and teachers of PNA. Want to know more about anything we've highlighted here? Get in touch! (907) 333-1080 or

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
Thank You! 

As always, our continued success is shared with the people and companies that support us.


Many thanks to... 

John Hardwick and Ral West


Skiva Investments LLC



get social!

Follow us to see just how much fun an independent education can be! 



Monday-Friday 8:30 am to 3:15 pm

Extended Day Program: 7:30 am to 6:00 pm

Front Office 8:00 am to 4:30 pm

Contact information


2511 Sentry Drive, Suite 100

Anchorage, Alaska 99507

Tel: (907) 333-1080 Fax: (907) 333-1652

Pacific northerN academy is a not-for-profit 501c3 organization
tax id: 92-0145501