Growing up in Southern California, Mary Lynn’s friends and family wouldn’t have predicted her passion for Alaska and the Iditarod. Unless they noticed her gazing longingly at mountains and hiking the Sierra Nevada. Perhaps it was her family roots in Wisconsin, summers spent in the Northwoods, or a winter drive after an ice storm, mesmerized by crystallized trees.
It may seem equally unlikely that Mary Lynn would teach elementary school, although those who know her had suspicions. Drawn to science and art, Mary Lynn’s education led to a Ph.D. in plant ecology, and assistant professorship in Forest Science. Elementary school? There were those years as camp counselor. Then, after she had her own children, there were years volunteering in schools. She rediscovered that learning with children is the best kind of learning, found her true path, returned to school, and is now in her 20th year teaching 5th grade.
So, why Iditarod? In 2008, Mary Lynn and her class read Akiak, a sweet story about an Iditarod sled dog. Researching to enrich the story, she discovered the world of Iditarod. Her students watched video of Iditarods-gone-by, subscribed to the Insider, and began following the race. Mary Lynn explored the Iditarod Education Portal, and curriculum began showing up throughout the year. Her students have adopted mushers, drafted and outfitted fantasy teams, learned about the science of sleddogs, solved sleddog math problems, read thousands of minutes, then written about it from the eyes of a sled dog. Mary Lynn immerses herself and her students in Iditarod, and sled dogs are etched in their hearts.
Mary Lynn is in the last stretch of her teaching career, heading toward Nome. At a time when many educators might feel the urge to slow down, she still is running with passion. Fueled with the spirit of the Iditarod, she is determined to say “yes” to challenges, stay out of her comfort zone, and encourage others to do the same. She is determined to use her enthusiasm for all things sleddog to inspire teachers and students to explore their own joy in learning with Iditarod.