In Koyuk, kindness is king

self portraits

“It only takes one person to change a life. And you may not know you’ve made that difference,” Koyuk Malimiut School Principal Jim Thomas said.

Thomas spoke of the history teacher who inspired the course of his career. In turn, he leads Koyuk’s school. Preparing for retirement after 50 years in education, Thomas has learned a lot about leadership.

“I think the biggest takeaway is that it helps to be a good listener. If you listen to people, they always have something to say. And sometimes what they have to say can make a difference in a person’s life,” Thomas said.

man in front of student achievement certificate wall
Principal Jim Thomas gives a tour of the school. At 80 years old, he still runs marathons. Photo by Scott Campbell, KNOM (2023).

The local school is central to the community of Koyuk. Like many village schools, it brings people together for sporting games, lunch and community activities.

“It’s a very warm, welcoming community,” Heather Swanson, 1st and 2nd grade teacher, said.

After deciding to uproot herself and move to the village, she arrived to find her boxes of clothes, food and bedding were delayed. Molly, the school cook, sprang into action, and soon Heather had everything she needed — along with an invitation to church and a game of Scrabble afterward.

Image at top: Self portraits, made by Koyuk’s 1st and 2nd grade class, line the school’s walls. Photo by Scotty Campbell, KNOM (2023).