James Isabell had to rethink his life after an all-terrain vehicle crash crushed his leg. He couldn’t walk for nine months.
“There was a lot of soul-searching after that,” he said. Isabell lives in Teller, a 300-person village near Nome where most people are Inupiat like him.
He had been employed as a laborer. After the accident, he switched to helping in a preschool operated by the nonprofit regional Native corporation Kawerak.
He teaches 3- to 5-year-olds. It’s hard work, trying to “grab their attention for a set period of time and get them to engage with the learning,” he said.
He enjoys the challenge, though.
“That led to me working on a degree,” he said. He is studying elementary education at UAF, taking classes remotely from both the Northwest Campus in Nome and the Troth Yeddha’ Campus in Fairbanks.
Isabell enjoys the outdoor lifestyle in his remote village.
“Being this close to the land is something I really enjoy,” he said. “We just got some reindeer over the weekend. In summer, we spend a lot of time at camp, picking all the fresh berries that grow out there.”
But he also appreciates the online access to college classes and advisors.
“Going back to school is definitely one of the best choices I could have made at this point,” he said. “The university is so helpful with opportunities, from scholarships to any type of help needed. The advisors are No. 1.”