History of the Teacher on the Trail™

In 1998, after using the race in the classroom for many years and encouraged by the late Iditarod Musher and Iditarod Air Force Pilot, Don Bowers, “Finney” (Andrea Aufder Heyde) felt compelled to reach out to the Iditarod Trail Committee and discuss the creation of a Teacher on the Trail™ program. Finney traveled to Alaska and presented the concept of this program to Iditarod. Iditarod agreed, having recognized early on in race history the importance of the classroom use of the race. Finney became the first Teacher on the Trail™ and led the way of providing a rich content of instruction for teachers to use with students. The program is now a part of Iditarod’s history as well as a key to the future of the race because it formally integrates the race into curriculum studies and reaches a global audience.

During Finney’s year as Teacher on the Trail™, much of the funding for this program came through Finney’s fund raising efforts. The Ronald McDonald House was a major supporter. Finney also gained support from local community organizations.

In 2001, Wells Fargo became a sponsor of the Teacher on the Trail™ Program.

In 2008, Target® became the Teacher on the Trail™ sponsor.

The Target® Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™ program has grown from the  vision and dreams of Finney, an Indiana school teacher to the global teaching adventure that it is today. This program puts quality teaching and learning in the ’sled bag’ traveling the Iditarod Trail— in classrooms in Alaska and all around the world.

Meet each teacher and catch up with where they are today.

1999 Andrea Aufder Heyde, “Finney”, IN: Creator of the Teacher on the Trail™ program and the First Teacher on the Trail™

“I am loving being retired from classroom teaching, but enjoy going back to do special presentations. The teaching passion is still there and it is such fun to walk in, spin my tales with great gusto, and then walk out! I am greatly inspired by my volunteer work and always look forward to my commitment. When I leave, my heart always feels touched by the patients I work with. I am also enjoying the time I am able to spend with my grandchildren. I never had that when I was teaching and feel so very lucky to have established a fun and wonderful relationship with them, that I just simply didn’t have time for before. Life is GOOD. I experienced many memorable moments during my trail journey, but the one that I seem to relive the most occurred in Nikolai. It involves an elder from the village, his grandson, and a display of Northern Lights that even the mushers spoke about after the race. I believe it was a gift I was given and I cherish the memory, which is instilled in my mind. It was truly a magical night in March, 1999!”

Finney is a member of the Teacher on the Trail™ selection committee and a member of the Iditarod Education Department’s steering committee.  Her guidance continues to help shape and grow the programs that Iditarod Education Department sponsors.


Indiana Teacher brings world to Iditarod:                                            http://www.juneauempire.com/stories/032309/sta_413478321.shtml

2000 Diane Johnson, SD:

After Diane’s journey along the Iditarod Trail, she returned to Alaska many times to assist with the educator conferences and as a mentor for the Teacher on the Trail™. Alaska seemed to ‘grow’ in her South Dakota backyard as her family became involved with raising sled dogs. Her husband, Mark, and Michael, their son, are now involved in racing. Michael’s goal is to race in the Jr. Iditarod. Diane is the Education Director for Iditarod. “The journey along the trail cannot be summed up in words but instead is written across the sky in the northern lights and imprinted on my heart and soul. I’m blessed to share my experiences with the teachers and classrooms I meet because I know that using the theme of the race with students empowers students to success. I am grateful to be involved with the Last Great Teaching Race— Iditarod.”

2001 Diane Nye, CO:

After time on the trail, Diane knew she had to make a difference in the world. “Since my return, I have had a series of different positions: teaching gifted kids, working as the Literacy Specialist and teaching the gifted students, and now the Instructional Coach. I am one semester away from obtaining my principal’s license and my masters’ degree. I am on the quest to make my school better for the students. Favorite memory: Spending two days at Rainy Pass, working with the dropped dogs and sleeping under the giant moose in the mushers’ cabin! Other favorites: Time in Unalakleet and seeing the mushers come into Nome, eating muktuk and seal in Grayling, meeting teachers and students along the way!” Diane is a member of the Teacher’s Iditarod Focus Group.

2010 Update: Diane Nye is now a principal for an elementary school in Colorado and continues to share the curriculum connections of the race with teachers and students.

2002 Kim Harrick, MO:

Kim is currently an administrator for Rockwood School District, in the St. Louis area. Since Kim’s 2002 Iditarod experience, Kim left her 2nd grade classroom to become an Instructional Technology Specialist for the Rockwood School District, where she worked with teachers, empowering them to integrate technology and create rich educational opportunities for students. In Spring 2009, Kim accepted a position as an Assistant Principal and returned to Ridge Meadows Elementary School (where she began her teaching career 18 years ago). Kim integrates her Iditarod experiences as she works with students, teachers and parents. She incorporates integrity, perseverance, dedication, determination and many other “trail values” into her work on a daily basis.

Kim continues to share the Iditarod theme to classrooms. She is a member of the Teacher’s Iditarod Focus Group, guiding the goals and objectives of the Education Department.

2003 Cassandra Wilson, OR:

Cassandra continues to teach elementary students and lives in Oregon. She visits Alaska often as it is now home to her daughter. “It is important that our students receive more education in the field of science, especially science that is focusing on our planet’s environment. I still incorporate all the core subjects with my Iditarod experience. I hope they’ll learn about setting goals and reaching those goals. This race really helps kids understand there are standards they have to reach.”

2004 Jeff Peterson, MN:

“I hope students learn how important it is to dream, and how difficult and rewarding it is to follow that dream.” Jeff continues to teach at Wilshire Park Elementary School and along with his responsibilities of his fourth grade students, Jeff is a football coach. While on the trail, Jeff enjoyed interacting with students and learning first hand cultural games common to the villages. Jeff remains impressed with those associated with the Iditarod. “It’s amazing what a group of diverse people can do if they have a common goal. The teamwork and the hospitality that people provide toward this goal is something to see. Really, this attitude can be transferred to anything in life.” (http://www.vernhalter.com) Jeff is a member of the Teacher on the Trail™ selection committee.

2005 Lynne Gordon, MA:

Lynne continues to teach second grade and is passionate about bringing real life adventures to her students to engage them in meaningful learning. As a masterful story teller, she captivates the imagination of her students, brining authentic learning experiences from around the United States to her students. Lynne is currently working on a children’s book, pen to paper while her daughter, a talented artist, works on the illustrations for the book. She is a member of the Iditarod Teacher’s Focus Group.

2006 Terrie Hanke, WI:

Since Terrie’s journey along the Iditarod Trail, she has ridden her bike at least 6 times the length of the Iditarod Trail, comparing the miles of the journey to checkpoints. Terrie has retired from teaching and has more time to golf, lift weights, run, bike, swim, ski and fish. Each year she provides dozens of Teacher on the Trail™ presentations for schools and community groups in Wisconsin. She serves as a member of the Teacher on the Trail™ selection committee and plays an integral role in Iditarod’s educational conferences as a member of the winter and summer camp conference staff. Terrie is a mentor for our Target® Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™. Terrie ‘pens’ for Sanka. W. Dog, one of the K-9 Journalists who share articles on the website with Zuma.

2007 Kim Slade, FL:

Iditarod is still a big part of my everyday life. “I love raising my Alaskan husky, Kenai, who has become a valued member of my family and community. She and I travel to schools and organizational meetings throughout the state giving presentations. My fifth grade class loves having her visit and the children have learned a lot. I also have stayed in contact with many of the new friends I made when in Alaska. One of my favorite experiences (besides interacting with the dogs) was meeting the variety of people along the trail. Everyone was willing to help provide me with a memorable experience which has allowed me to share a multitude of stories from the trail – making it very personal. I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank You” to everyone who made my Iditarod experience the experience of a life time!”

2008 Jane Blaile, AZ:

Jane returned to Alaska to present at the 2008 Summer Camp for Teachers. The start of the new school year found Jane switching grade levels which she saw as an opportunity to write new curriculum and expand upon her Iditarod teaching units. “In ways I probably can’t convey, serving as the Target® Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™ for the Iditarod 2008 has changed me and my life. It was what I needed at the time I needed it to happen. I love the Iditarod people I work with, who lift me up, who make me laugh, who affirm my wish for adventure and to step out of the box. And I’m proud and honored to work with the Iditarod in this way.”

Jane is a member of the Teacher’s Focus Group and serves on the advisory board for the Teacher on the Trail™ program.   Jane maintains involvement as presenter, a mentor to other teachers, and as a race volunteer.  During the 2010 race, Jane was an educational journalist on the Iditarod Trail, stationed in Nulato.

2009 Cathy Walters, NC:

In October of 2008, Cathy was diagnosed with cancer.  Throughout the months leading up to her journey on the trail, Cathy endured surgery and radiation/chemo for her cancer.  She maintained a focus on recovery and energetically arrived in Alaska ready for the 2009 Iditarod and her journey.  She remains cancer free today and wants to remind you to stay healthy and alert to your health because early detection is so important.

Cathy is a preschool teacher from Asheville, NC. She recognizes that what research says about teaching and learning is true. Students learn through movement and music is a powerful ‘tune’ to teach. She’s been inspired by the race to create many catchy songs for classroom use. Her movement activities and songs are enjoyed by students of all ages. Cathy also creates and leads summer camp educational projects for elementary students.

Cathy has continued her teaching career, inspiring they young PreK students to read and develop their skills.  She also enjoys spending time with her grandchildren.   Cathy is a member the Iditarod Education Department steering committee and serves on the advisory board for the Teacher on the Trail™ program.

2010 Herb Brambley, PA

To be updated soon.

2011 Martha Dobson, NC

To be updated soon.

2012 Blynne Froke, CA

To be updated soon.


Historical Documents

On Iditarod’s Website during the fall of 1998:

1999 Teacher on the Trail – Andrea (Finney) Aufder-Heyde of Bloomington, Indiana will be traveling the Iditarod Trail along with other Iditarod volunteers, to represent and report on the Iditarod Race in one of Greatest Teaching Adventures of the decade.

Teachers – If you are applying for Teacher on the Trail 2000, remember that your applications must be mailed no later than December 30 and received no later than January 5, 1999. Teachers – If you are coming to Alaska for the start of the Iditarod, you might want to attend the teacher luncheon on Friday March 5, 1999 at the Regal Alaskan Hotel. Tickets are $20.00 and available through the Iditarod office 907-376-5155

The following appeared on Iditarod’s website in the fall of 1998 and serves as a copy of the ‘first’ application form used for the Teacher on the Trail™ selection.  This is a historical document and is not a part of the current application process.

Applicant Information.Before requesting an application, please read all the requirements and deadlines.

Thank you for your interest in becoming the Iditarod Teacher on the Trail for the year 2001..The teacher who is selected will not only represent the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, but will also represent educators everywhere. This is an awesome experience and we know that whomever is selected, they will never forget their year as the Iditarod Teacher on the Trail..The Teacher on the Trail will need at least four weeks off beginning with the last week in February (remember spring break usually falls during this time for one week). He/she will begin his/her participation as a volunteer for the Jr. Iditarod on the last weekend in February, traveling to Yentna Station to overnight on the trail with the teenage mushers. The next week will be spent in committee meetings, school visits, museum trips, kennel tours, mushers’ meeting, pre-race mushers’ banquet and teacher luncheon. He/she will be at the start and possibly the restart and then on to the trail..Due to weather, trail travel will be subject to change, but the plan is to have our Teacher on the Trail at Skwentna Checkpoint where he/she will have the opportunity to join the Skwentna Sweeties and help with the checkpoint while reporting on activities. This is usually an overnight type situation coming back to Anchorage and flying over the Alaska Range in a larger aircraft or if an Iditarod Air Force plane is traveling over the range, you might be invited to continue on to McGrath in this manner. Most pilots will be very happy to fly the trail and point out various checkpoints and sites to their passengers..From McGrath, population just over 500, the teacher will travel to Ruby and/or Galena, then on to Unalakleet. A day or two in Unalakleet and then on to White Mountain again for a day or two stop. Finally to Nome for the finish of the race. Mushers will be arriving in Nome for the rest of the week and the teacher will attend the Awards Banquet on Sunday night and then fly back to Anchorage..

Application Information for the year 2001 Iditarod Teacher on Trail™.1) Teacher must be actively teaching a grade between K-9 included are Special Education Teachers..2) Teacher must be capable of using computer for sending stories and lessons from trail as well as chat sessions and email on line from October (at home or school) until the following June. (Sessions would be on schedule basis.).3) The Iditarod Trail Committee, Inc. would be responsible for the following expenses:.A. 2000 PRE RACE ACTIVITIES AND INTERVIEW

      • The Iditarod will be responsible for transportation to all planned activities during the finalists stay in Anchorage.
      • Personal side trips would be the responsibility of the candidate.
      • Ticket to the Pre-Race Banquet Ticket to the Teacher Luncheon

.B. 2001 RACE

    • Transportation to schedule events and appearances prior to leaving for race.
    • Transportation to and from Yentna Station for the Jr. Iditarod (1 week prior to start of Iditarod)
    • Ticket to the Anchorage Pre Race Banquet and the Nome Banquet
    • Ticket to the Teacher Luncheon
    • Transportation along the trail all the way to Nome, AK, food and a place to roll out your sleeping bag.
    • Transportation back to Anchorage from Nome and accommodations for one (1) night in Anchorage.
    • Laptop Computer for use on the trail.
    • Digital Camera for use on the trail.
    • Outer clothing for Teacher to wear on the trail.
    • Arctic quality sleeping bag.

4) Teachers will be totally responsible for expenses:.A. 2000 PRE RACE ACTIVITIES AND INTERVIEW

      If chosen as one of the three finalist for this position, you will be required to come to Alaska on the 2nd or 3rd of March 2000 for final interviews and selection of the teacher for 2001. Teachers would be expected to remain until at least Tuesday March 8 to become familiar with procedures and race activities.Final selection would be announced on or before April 15, 2000. Selected teacher will be notified prior to public announcement and two remaining finalist will be alternates identified as first and second alternate.

Finalists are responsible for their own expenses for this trip to Alaska.

Finalist will permit the Iditarod Trail Committee, Inc. to publicize their images and/or biographic information to the world wide media through whatever means, television, newspapers, magazines, internet, etc. (A liability release and a photo and publicity release will be required. )

B. 2001 RACE

      a) Airfare to and from Anchorage for the race in which he/she is Teacher on the Trail™b) Food and Hotel accommodations until he/she leaves for the trail. And for interview trip.

c) Arctic clothing and footwear (suggested list enclosed.)

d) Cold weather sleeping bag good to 30º below zero F.

5) Preliminary application should have the following attached: (required)

    a) Plan for how the teacher is going to fund the project
    b) Proof of support of school principal, staff and PTO or other Parent/Teacher organization at their school. This proof of support is meant to show more than a recommendation. It should contain definite statements of allowable time off to perform the duties of Teacher on the Trail. We are looking for pledges of support, not recommendations from these people

c) Other documents showing support of project such as, letters from city officials, school district, etc

d) Personal references

e) Biography

6) Suggestions of items that teachers might include with application.a) Involvement in local curriculum developmentb) Committees served on at local school and district.c) Involvement in community activities.7) Such other attachments as you feel might persuade the selection committee to select you as a finalist.a) Involvement in local curriculum developmentb) Committees served on at local school and district.c) Involvement in community activities.

General Information

Accommodations on the trail might and often do consist of a place on the floor of the checkpoint where you can roll out your sleeping bag. Food is shipped to the trail for the volunteers and you would be eating with them. We do not accommodate special diets. However, if you can package it in a non perishable way and not have to worry if it freezes, you can get small packages to most of the checkpoints. Teacher will be transported in small aircraft piloted by qualified bush Iditarod pilots.

Teacher would be responsible for representing the Iditarod Trail Committee’s ongoing educational program for the year that he/she was the Teacher on the Trail. This would mean promoting the race and your involvement within your school, district, and state. Suggestions and guidelines will be provided. The Teacher would also be responsible for development of a plan for reporting and presenting lessons from Anchorage and the trail. Lesson plans for several grade levels should be created for use on the Iditarod website and in the 2001 Supplement to the iditarod Handbook for Teachers.

The teacher will be moved along the trail in a timely fashion at the race manager and chief pilot’s discretion.