Ethan Petticrew has worked all over the state of Alaska as a teacher, administrator, and curriculum coordinator. He was born in Wrangell, Alaska. Ethan’s Tlingit name is Daayoosh. Although he is Unangax by blood, he is also an original Sealaska shareholder, and belongs to the Kiks.ádi from Gagaan Hít. His experiences and education have given him a unique perspective into what makes the field of teaching such an important one, especially in a state as diverse as Alaska.
Petticrew is very proud of his Unangax heritage and works to make sure that all students’ cultures are recognized in the classroom. When asked about why he became a teacher, he declared, “we should not feel ashamed for who we are or how our parents have dressed us. Our lifestyle, our language, our culture — anything that we do, we should not have to feel shame for that. [Realizing] that, that’s when I decided to become a teacher.” It is Petticrew’s desire that every child, regardless of their background, receive an appropriate and positive education without fearing that they will be looked down upon or mistreated because of their heritage.
Debates surrounding the ideas of the westernization of education in Alaska and maintaining Native traditions have ignited the political and education landscape for more than 50 years. Petticrew sees a future where “our children should be able to walk in both worlds and do equally well in both of them.” He goes on to say, “I think that we as a country, as a state, as communities, as school districts seriously need to look at how we’re educating children and we must change. We cannot continue doing the same thing.” According to Petticrew, the only way progress will be made is by doing what is in the best interest of every child without exception.
At the end of the day, “…it’s gotta come from us. We have to change this,” Petticrew says. By encouraging more Alaskan students to go into the field of education, he firmly believes that an increase in traditional knowledge and a respect for cultural values will be reflected. “If we’re going to have any success as a people…then education is a big part of it.” His strive for success in education, both locally and globally, is a quality to which professionals in all fields should aspire.
Petticrew is a retired educator with more than 21 years in the classroom. He has also served as a curriculum coordinator for Aleutian Region School District and as the vice president for Cultural and Educational Services at the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Currently he is the executive director for Cook Inlet Native Head Start. He received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Alaska, Southeast. Later he earned a master’s of arts degree in education for curriculum and instruction from Ball State University. In the future, Petticrew would eventually like to pursue his Ph.D. in Indigenous pedagogy.