Featured Employee, Atan' Winkelman

Featured Employee, Atan' Winkelman
Posted on 04/22/2022
Atan' with flowers bought by family members for her birthday.
LKSD has amazing individuals helping enrich the lives of youth around the YK Delta.  We’ll be highlighting staff throughout the year so our communities can learn the commitment and diverse skills our staff share with our students every day. Follow along to learn more about our staff and educators.

Featuring: Atan’ Winkelman
Atan' with flowers bought by family members for her birthday  
Atan' with flowers bought for her by
family members for her birthday


Where did you grow up? 

I grew up in Kuiggluk where most of my family is from. My late parents were Ivan and Minnie Michael from Kuiggluk. My grandparents were Fr. Nicolai Michael and Matushka Olga on my dad's side. My mother's stepfather was Adam Andrew, the only grandfather I knew who married my grandmother Caligauq Nastasia Andrew. Her maiden name was Angilan. I am one of about 25 certified Yup’ik educators here in LKSD.


How long have you been working with LKSD?
I started working as an elementary teacher in 1994. I taught in Chefornak, Akula, and Ayaprun Elitnaurvik before moving to the district office. I coach a couple of sites at the district office, but my main work is to help develop the Yugtun curriculum.


What is the best part about working with LKSD students? What keeps you coming back year after year?
I love it when kids know I am Yup’ik, and they drop their shoulders (and attitudes) and relax. They lean in and sometimes lean onto me to share whatever they want. It's a good feeling to know that kids trust me and are comfortable. Plus, our kids are the cutest in the world, come on!


What inspired you to work in education?
My uncle Jimmie Michael was our Kindergarten teacher (aide), and he made school fun and safe. I never forgot that, and as a teacher wanted to do the same for my students – to make school a fun place to be.


 What’s a memorable moment from your work in LKSD that made you a better educator?
Caulaaq and Nuraun were two quiet kids I taught a long time ago in different years at Ayaprun Elitnaurvik. They didn’t speak much in class. They taught me that just because you don’t say much doesn’t mean you don’t understand what’s going on. When I was able to work with them one-on-one, I was amazed at how much Yugtun they knew, and when given a chance, can be beautiful contributors. They taught me not to judge kids by what they DON'T say as much as what they do say. All kids are fun to get to know because their Superpowers are not always readily visible. Sometimes you just have to be patient.


Tell us a story about your approach to education.
My parents pushed me to go to college. They were big proponents of education and taking care of kids. When I told my mom that I had decided to be a teacher, she was thrilled and told me, "Good! You will be the voice for kids who cannot speak up for themselves." I take that very seriously. Whatever I do, I act/react; I keep that in the back of my mind and ask, "Is this good for our kids? Am I speaking for the kids?" My parents and grandparents were excellent teachers. I want to carry that on to show my own children to be good teachers, too - in whatever they decide to do and hope they too speak up for those who cannot.


What are some of the ways you spend your time (outside of LKSD work)?
Much of my work attracts a lot of people. For instance, I was asked to co-present to the House Education Committee for the house bill on the AK Reads Act that our Representative Tiffany Zulkosky looped me into. I reached out to her for HB19 - Certifying our Indigenous Language Teachers, then was asked to present to the House.

District administrators also shared that Atan’ has been profiled on the Yuk to Yuk radio program due to her work spearheading LKSD’s Yugtun Curriculum Development. She has also shared the work LKSD has accomplished with other school districts in Alaska that are interested in learning more about our unique approach to education.

Atan' is the Yugtun Education Specialist for LKSD.
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