Alaska Town Struggles After Plane Crash Kills Only Existing Teacher

school houseA small town in Alaska is reeling this week after all three of its teachers were involved in a plane crash. The accident claimed the life of its one long-time educator and left its two brand new teachers injured. Yes, there were just three teachers. Anvik, Alaska is that small. It's the downside to raising your kids in a school district where everyone knows their name.

A plane crash that kills someone is a horrific tragedy. That's not someone you get over. But in a town that's small enough to have only three teachers, I can't help wondering if it's not somehow ... worse?


Julie Walker, one of the two fatalities from the crash that also claimed the life of the pilot, had lived in little Anvik her whole life. She'd been a teacher in the 18-student school for nine years. Everyone in the 85-resident town had to know her, and you can bet every single kid had a relationship with her.

How does a town recover from that? The kids will all be a mess, and the adults will no doubt be so caught up in grief, they won't be able to hide it from their children. With brand new teachers Don and Rosemary Evans and their two kids currently recovering from their injuries, the school can't even get up and running to take kids' minds off the whole tragedy.

This is the story of small school districts. We love their class sizes, but we have to accept they're not perfect either. I know it all too well. I went to the same school in the same building from kindergarten all the way through the 12th grade. When someone tells me they graduated in a small class, I always ask how big it was. Chances are their version of small was bigger than my entire school. As much as I don't miss high school (does anyone? really?), I often wish my school still existed so I could give my child the same experience of knowing everyone, of feeling like they were part of a family even when they were out of the house for hours of the day. You know you matter.

But I can't say I miss the way tragedy rocks a small school. When one person dies in a class of 1,000, it's sad, but there's a fair chance you really have no idea WHO that person is. When one person dies in a school that numbers 600 kids, you know them, their sister, their cousin, their godfather, and their grandma. You can't shield your kids from the facts of life in a small school.

I know I'll be thinking about the family of Julie Walker today, and the whole town of Anvik, Alaska. How about you? Do you know all the teachers at your child's school?


Image via InAweofGod'sCreation/Flickr

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