49 Voices: Robert Fowler of Tuntutuliak

Robert Fowler of Tuntutuliak. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/Alaska’s Energy Desk)

This week we’re hearing from Robert Fowler in Tuntutuliak. Fowler has lived in Alaska for seven years, having moved up from Oregon. He’s the principal of the school in the village.

FOWLER: I was a home builder originally, and I lost my business in 2008 when things went really bad. And I went back to school to be a teacher and went to the job fair in Portland, Oregon and the first place that took me on was Northwest Arctic Borough School District. I ended up being a 7th-8th grade teacher in Selawik, Alaska for two years.

It was different, but it was all kids, and kids are kids. I enjoyed it. Had a lot of fun with them. I was middle school, so my inner middle-schooler came out and I just played all day.

After just teaching three years, who would think that someone would say “Hey, you should be an assistant principal somewhere? And sure enough, someone hired me, and I was there for one year, and then, all of a sudden, I’m a principal. Turns out I’m pretty good at it, and I really enjoy the job. It’s been a wonderful experience.

I’m here just by myself, but family’s come up to visit quite a bit. I’m married and have three daughters, and my daughters have come up and started learning Yup’ik and have had a lot of fun. They tend to spend about half the year up here at a time.

Life definitely changed for them, myself too. They have horses down there (in Oregon) and they live kind of a country lifestyle. Things are slower; they’re still not in the city. But when they come here, it slows down ever more.

So there’s no roads in or out. You have to fly in, or if you’re lucky, you’ll get someone to snowgo you in. There’s not a lot to do unless you start learning aout some of the people and what they have going on at their places and stuff. Otherwise, if you’re not outgoing and searching out for yourself, you’re going to be bored to death. There’s really nothing. It’s just a different lifestyle. It’s a good lifestyle, but it gives you more time to do things you might want to do.

I’m working on college classes right now. I would not have had time for that down South. So again, more opportunities with more time.

Previous articleAK: Petersburg students turn plastic trash into artsy treasures
Next articleNapakiak says goodbye to residents who died in jail fire
Rashah McChesney is a photojournalist turned radio journalist who has been telling stories in Alaska since 2012. Before joining Alaska's Energy Desk , she worked at Kenai's Peninsula Clarion and the Juneau bureau of the Associated Press. She is a graduate of Iowa State University's Greenlee Journalism School and has worked in public television, newspapers and now radio, all in the quest to become the Swiss Army knife of storytellers.