The FUNd Stuff at PNA!

Risk Taking: It's Expected!

by Sarah Mariner | PNA Middle School Teacher

When I read about the Middle School experience online, I wonder why I can’t really identify with many of the issues being reported. Sure, I recognize the emotional and self conscience adolescent struggling through a stage of self discovery, but I don’t see the standard issues of exclusion, mockery, defiance, and apathy described in these articles. In thinking deeply about this, I realize that it’s PNA, and how we respect and “grow” our students by honoring their individual insecurities and encouraging them to take risks. Why are teens self conscious and emotional? According to Dr. Frances E. Jensen (Neuroscientist, professor, and author of The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults), teenagers have emotional highs and lows because the emotional centers of the brain are connected before the frontal lobes. The frontal lobe is what controls executive function, judgment, insight, empathy, and impulse control. As a result, teenagers make a lot of mistakes because they are doing many things for the very first time. The brain actually turns down the critical thinking and impulse control so that tweens and teens may take more risks. This also means that teenagers are very impressionable, both by good and by bad things. In general, influences have a much more penetrating and permanent effect on them during this period. Middle school is the right time to take risks. PNA’s Middle School is a safe place to take these risks. While ultimately, middle schoolers worry deeply about disappointing their parents, they are also doing everything they can to self identify away from their parents. To do so takes tremendous courage. At PNA trying something new, hanging out with someone different, trying new foods, picking up a musical instrument, etc, are celebrated and encouraged. When notes are missed, or social miscues happen, or other teenage "fails" occur, it is all treated as part of the program - the Middle School Program of finding out our emerging identities. The encouragement and acceptance within the community of students, parents and teachers ensures that the PNA grad, while possibly not completely unscathed, heads to high school with a sound grounding of self, starting a leg up from other incoming freshmen. I know this to be true because I have had high school teachers explain to me that they can tell if a student went to PNA. They say that a PNA student will come prepared to class, is confident, is not swayed by peer pressure, and often goes above and beyond. PNA graduates have already taken their risks and landed on their feet - stronger and taller each time. ​ This week’s MLK assembly and guest speaker event, brown bag, and lock-in provided the strong evidence of courageous students, trying new things in front of many. Even in failure, students at PNA brush it off - some even laugh about it! This is not the Middle School experience I read about online or hear about from friends whose kids go to other schools. Instead, I feel proud to know that I am a part of a program that truly builds self confident and resilient students ready for high school.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

January 20, 2020

While many schools in Anchorage take MLK Day off, PNA students have a day 'on' and gather together each year to pay tribute to the man who believed in the power of connectivity, inclusivity, and equality.

Pacific Northern Academy students began the day this year with a morning assembly and reflection of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?” During the assembly, students were asked to think about how they show kindness or are of service to others. Students wrote their idea on a piece of paper that would become one link in a chain that included everyone in the school. Once the chain was completed, it was easy to see the underlying message - No matter our background, we are all interconnected and each of us can make the choice to have a positive impact on those around us.

PNA's 4th grade teacher Mr. Redhead summed it up nicely, "We often talk about our school mission and having vision, courage, and integrity. We educate students to have those intrinsic traits as well as being exceptional learners and independent thinkers. One way to develop those traits is to follow the examples set by others. In this case, Martin Luther King Jr. By celebrating this as a day 'on' rather than a day 'off' we can learn from his example and what he stood for. By having the integrity to do the right thing, the courage to stand up and speak out in the face of adversity and the vision to see a better future. Educating students to have and value these traits in themselves and others and to not be afraid to give voice to what you believe in will only benefit society as students grow up to be leaders of the next generation".

To commemorate the day, students also participated in kindness themed projects. Preschoolers donated a toy from their home to a child in need, 2nd and 5th graders sewed bat wraps for animal rescue organizations helping to care for injured animals amidst the destructive Australian fires, and 3rd graders visited senior housing to play board games with the residents.

Brown Bag Talent Showcase

PNA's Brown Bag Talent Showcase is always one of our favorite school events and shows how our students truly embody the mission of the school. The unwavering support and positive energy from the entire student body for every person who chooses to perform is remarkable to witness.


PNA’s First LEGO League Robotics team, the “Pantherbots” participated in the Alaska Robot Rendezvous- a First LEGO League Invitational Championship.

Postcards from the Classroom

Take a look at the exciting activities students were involved in last week!

Click any picture to jump into the slideshow.

PNA Auction

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To make a donation or refer a family to PNA, Call (907) 333-1080 or click here to visit the giving page on our website.

Other Ways to Support PNA

Link your Fred Meyer rewards card:

Link your Rewards Card to Pacific Northern Academy by visiting

Whenever you use your Rewards card when shopping at Fred Meyer, you’ll be helping PNA earn a donation from Fred Meyer.

Rewards Customers still get the Rewards Points, Fuel Points and Rebates

Shop with Amazon Smile:

AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support your favorite charitable organization every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop at, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to your favorite charitable organization.

On your first visit to, you need to select Pacific Northern Academy from the list of charitable organizations before you begin shopping.


Pick.Click.Give. allows Alaskans to donate a portion of their Permanent Fund Dividend to causes they care about statewide.

While applying for your PFD online, your can choose to Pick.Click.Give to Pacific Northern Academy. All donations are tax deductible and donors will receive tax documentation from the State once their donations have been processed. Permanent Fund Dividend applications are available from January 1 to March 31, though Alaskans may choose to add or adjust their pledges online through August 31.

Coming Right Up...

February 14th - PNA Day of Giving

1st annual PNA day of giving.

This is a day where we showcase PNA family reach and love around the world.

A day to remember what PNA is giving to current students and what it has done for alumni. We do not have a financial goal for the day, it is strictly a participation goal. Whether you give $1 or $100 or any amount in between, we want to show how deep the PNA community is. Stay tuned for more information and share with other PNA community members.

PNA's Barnes and Noble Bookfair

If you missed PNA’s Barnes and Noble Bookfair on January 25th, don’t worry, you can still support our school through Wednesday, January 29th.

If you order from Barnes and Noble online, enter the our Bookfair ID #: 12575163 at checkout.

If you shop at the Anchorage Barnes and Noble store, just let the clerk know you want to support Pacific Northern Academy’s Bookfair at checkout.

Thank you for supporting PNA and encouraging lifelong readers!

You can also check out all of the upcoming events on our website by clicking calendar under our about PNA tab.

Just One More...

Many Thanks To

John Hardwick and Ral West

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

Skiva Investments LLC

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


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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



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