Anchorage teacher honored in Washington as a "Teacher of the Year" finalist

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- The Trump administration is honoring teachers from across the country this week for the annual Teacher of the Year award. Alaska's teacher of the year is among the crowd, hailing from the Alaska Native Cultural Charter School in Anchorage. Its her unique style of teaching that has her here on the nation's biggest stage.

(Source: Gray DC)

"All of us teachers...we may have a different clientele, but we're all a voice for each one of them," said Danielle Riha who mainly teaches middle school.

Riha is one of four finalists for the National Teacher of the Year. She says in her classroom, it comes down to identity and inclusion.

"They connect to what you're teaching them because they can see themselves in your lessons," said Riha.

She left her classroom in Anchorage this week to travel to Washington with colleagues from around the country. She says connecting with other teachers allows her to share her practices, like using indigenous culture in Alaska and tying it into the rest of her curriculum. Riha says she can learn what makes each of the other teachers' classrooms unique.

"Find ways to collaborate to support our students...that's my biggest takeaway," said Riha.

She was one of 58 teachers invited to the White House. A highlight of the visit was a meeting with a special guest: President Trump.

"We were all so honored," said RIha.

Riha was not selected as the National Teacher of the Year, but she says being a finalist was incredible recognition. For her, meeting with the vice president and president were great treats on this trip, but she says the real focus of her visit was to highlight her students and her hopes for them.

"Teach them to be comfortable in their own skin and love and learn who they are and where they come from. They become better learners," said Riha.

Riha will return home to Alaska Saturday after a week full of meetings and events.

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