Alaska Writing Site
From Idaho to Kenny Lake
By Mariah Doty
Once you’ve experienced a lifetime of community, family, and love you’ll never want to leave. For many, living in a small town is not just a choice, but a necessity like the blood that courses through you. You could say it runs through your veins; once there, removing it would cause pain. Small town living courses through the veins of our very own principal, Ms. Stansell.
Ms. Stansell was born and raised in small town Nampa, Idaho, on a family owned farm. She grew up challenging her older brother Eric and older sister Shelley at sports. Looking back on life, Ms. Stansell cherishes family trips to her grandparents’ cabin as her most treasured memories. She loves the feeling of being out in the mountains and wilderness, alone in the quiet.
For some of us, making friends in a small community can be a challenge, but for Ms. Stansell this was not an issue. As a young lady she was fairly outgoing and was involved in just about every sport. She mentioned that the same group of kids participated in every event, much like Kenny Lake. “My parents had some of the same teachers that I did. There were only maybe 52 students in my graduating class. Most kids started school with you and graduated with you… much like here,” said Ms. Stansell.
After graduating from high school, Ms. Stansell attended Albertson College of Idaho 20 miles from home. As a freshman, Ms.Stansell declared International Business as her major, but towards the end of her sophomore year she was not connecting with her classes and switched her major to education. Upon graduating from ACI, Ms. Stansell earned a bachelor’s degree in sports management. Ms.Stansell dreamed of opening and managing her own fitness club. She had worked at the Idaho Athletic Club while making her way through college. But that dream soon fell to the wayside. “ I just didn’t really feel that that would be where my heart was!” As she pondered what she would do with her life, the college offered a new program; Ms. Stansell played the role of guinea pig in the Masters of Education program. This required her to finish up all of her education courses and take a yearlong internship in an elementary school. At the end of the year, she would have her teaching certification and a masters degree in teaching.
At the end of her fifth year of college, she had received her teaching certification and obtained a job at the school she interned at. “I started out teaching a fourth grade class and was in that class for four years. I absolutely love that age level, and then my fifth year at Central Canyon Elementary, I ended up switching for a year to teach third grade.” During the spring of her fifth year at CCE Ms. Stansell felt she was getting too comfortable. “I felt like I could have been there for 30 years, or it was time to move on and try something new in my life! I had been in the area my whole life… so for 25 years… and I had hardly even left home.”
That spring Ms. Stansell traveled to Portland, Oregon for the teachers job fair and ended up interviewing with the Bering Strait School District, Alaska. She soon found herself in Gambell on Saint Lawrence Island, where she taught a third and fourth grade class for three years. Soon it was time for another new adventure. Ms. Stansell applied to be part of the Alaska Statewide Teacher Mentor Project. For two years she served in the teacher mentor program which allowed her to move to Unalakleet. While mentoring, she decided to start working on her administration credentials. “I knew I did not want to teach in a classroom for the next 20-30 years, I already wanted to challenge myself and try some leadership positions in education. So I got my administration credentials in those two years and was looking for principal positions, when I ended up here at Kenny Lake School.”
As Ms. Stansell works in the office; her friend Mr. Oatman often comes in with a challenge for her. “Ms. Stansell and I are pretty competitive. She is a lot younger; she’s in really great shape, and those things I am not. I am a little older and in not such great shape, but last year was her first year here, and we talked about downhill skiing. It got to be the type of conversation of who was better than who? So we went out to Alyeska together and had a wonderful time. It was pretty memorable for me, while I sat at the lift line waiting for her.. forever! I whooped her really bad!” said Mr. Oatman. However, Mr. Oatman had the intimidation card on his side. A few days before they left for the trip, Mr. Oatman had Dirck Rosenkrans go into her office and say “Oh my gosh! You’re gonna have a ski competition with Mr. Oatman. In the old days he almost made the Olympics!” Oatman says he admires Ms. Stansell for “ Her professionalism, joyful attitude, and happiness.”
However, Mr. Oatman is not the only one that plays pranks on Ms. Stansell. Mrs. Friendshuh is also the culprit of several different pranks “While Ms. Stansell was interviewing with Channel 2 News, I stood in the background where nobody could see me except her. From there I continued to make faces at her.” When questioned “What is your pet peeve about how Ms. Stansell does her paperwork?” Mrs. Friendshuh replied “She cannot fill out a leave slip to save her life! Sometimes she will write Stansell Stansell, mix up her own names, or even sign the slip with the date. It is just pure entertainment!”
We have all seen Ms. Stansell in the gym at lunch, or even after school on the basketball court. However, she loves golf and walking her dog. She spends her “free time” sitting on the couch reading a good book. “Often times five hours will fly by and I won’t even notice.” She said. In the summer Ms. Stansell likes to find a quiet spot on a riverbed, and just relax, because it brings back the many wonderful memories of going to her grandparents’ cabin in the mountains.
“Overall you’ve got to do what makes yourself content and happy. You can’t walk around trying to make others happy. Choose what you enjoy doing, something you’re proud of. There is also an importance of relationships and people surrounding you that is critical.” Ms. Stansell believes this is how we should live life. Friendship and happiness. Isn’t that what we all want? Take her advice: do what makes you happy, but don’t put others down in order to get there. Remember that the small town blood that runs through you might encourage you to come back one day, and then what will people remember you for?