Published July 2018
“If You Think It, It Can Be Done”
We were honored to have shareholder Frances Jackson as our special guest speaker at the 45th Ahtna Annual Meeting. Ms. Jackson was recently announced as Glennallen School’s new principal. She is the school’s first alumni principal and to commemorate the momentous occasion Ahtna presented her with a beautiful beaded vest hand crafted by Jessica Denny.
Jackson is of the Tsisyu clan and her parents are Nick and Lorraine Jackson. Her grandmother is Hazel Neeley and her grandfather is the late Ben Neeley. She has spent the last 17 years teaching, with 13 of those years in Glennallen. It was in the first grade that Jackson decided she wanted to be a teacher someday. Her teacher at the time showed unconditional love and made things fun for the class while still setting boundaries. It was a wonderful setting to learn and flourish in. Her dreams of becoming a teacher continued through high school, thanks in part to encouragement from her grandfather. He encouraged his grandkids to go to college; even if it meant going far away to pursue their education. He would pray daily for his grandchildren as it was hard when they were away, but he knew the sacrifice would be worth it.
Jackson earned her Bachelor’s degree in Education from American Indian College and upon graduation returned to Alaska for her first teaching job in Kotzebue. It was hard being away from her nieces and nephews, so after four years she decided to come home to be a part of their lives. After being home for a year, a teaching position opened in the Copper River School District at Glennallen Elementary School and she was hired as a first grade teacher.
Teaching can be a challenging profession at times, but when things got difficult Jackson says she would remind herself why she must press forward. She wasn’t doing it for herself, or even her family, it was for God. This was her passion and calling from God. That realization gave her the motivation to persevere and push forward.
There were elders that came along at the right times when she needed encouragement most. The first was Irene Tansy who wrote a handwritten note that Jackson still looks at today. Tansy knew that Jackson would understand village life and the obstacles that Alaska Native kids and families face. By knowing the culture, she could cut through and connect with the children on another level.
Christopher Gene helped her along the way during some of her darkest times. He would tell her he was proud of her and glad to have an Ahtna Athabascan teaching his grandkids. She’s also thankful for the positive example the late Katie John set by encouraging education for everyone.
Jackson served on the Gulkana Village Council with the late Roy S. Ewan. He would tell her to “stand tall” and do what she could for their people and region. While she sat with him during his final days he told her, “It can be done. If you think it, it can be done.” During this time she was considering becoming a Principal and those words provided the assurance she needed that it was possible.
Whenever she was asked in the past if she had considered becoming a principal she was quick to answer “no” – she was aware of the challenges that come with the job. She was considering going back to college to further her education though and the question kept coming up from colleagues and parents. It was then that she realized she needed to ask the Lord for help. She would pray with others and eventually concluded that it was God who was leading her on a new path. She applied to school and a month later found out the Glennallen Principal job was opening. After much consideration she applied and went before the review committee who ultimately selected her as their final candidate.
Jackson stresses that she will need shareholder support in her new role and would like to encourage her generation to step up into leadership positions. Mr. Ewan’s passing really spoke to her and was a wakeup call. “We won’t always have our trusted elders to lead us in the direction we need to go,” she says. “Whatever your passion is, step up and do what God is calling you to do. Stay planted on the course he’s put you on.”
Ahtna is proud of the leadership Jackson has taken on and we wish her well with 100% support. We can’t wait to see the wonderful things she accomplishes in her new role!