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Chicago Teacher Receives 2017 'Iditarod Teacher on the Trail' Honor

CHICAGO (CBS) -- As Chicago fights through winter, one fourth grade Chicago teacher on the North Side is getting ready to "hit the books" at the Iditarod in Alaska in March.

Annie Kelley is a fourth grade teacher at St. Andrew School, located in the 1700 block of West Addison. She has been named this year's "Iditarod Teacher on the Trail," an annual sled dog race that will be held in Alaska in March. WBBM's Terry Keshner reports.


Each year one teacher is chosen from the whole country after a long application process. Kelley was chosen as the 2017 teacher for the honor. As part of the experience, Kelley will have to keep a blog as well as write lesson plans that teachers can use throughout the year. Kelley said she will post a couple a month.

In March, Kelley will fly to Alaska for five weeks and travel down the Iditarod Trail. Though she will not be able to go by sled dog, the program will fly her from checkpoint to checkpoint during the race.

From this honor, she has been incorporating the Iditarod into her own lesson plans leading up to the trip.

"It is a great teaching tool," Kelley said. "I have had kids who don't like to read, don't like to write, but when we start working on the Iditarod and the dogs they get so excited, the smiles on their faces, that's why I do it, it's a great experience."

The program causes the fourth grade teacher to miss several weeks of school, but Kelley told WBBM the school, students and teachers are very supportive.

During the race, Kelley will be skyping with other teachers and classes across the country, for students to see what the experience is like.

Harold Tunheim
Harold Tunheim mushes his dogs through the finish line during the Iditarod Trail Race in Nome, Alaska. (Ezra O. Shaw /Allsport)

For more information, you can attend the Chicago Iditarod Teacher Conference where teachers from across the country will discuss the importance of implementing the Iditarod in classrooms. Speakers will include Annie Kelley as well as former teachers from the Teachers on the Trail program. The conference will be held Jan. 21 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at St. Andrew School. Tickets are available for $75 and includes breakfast and lunch.

And to follow along with Kelley's trip and more information on the program and applying, you can visit the website.

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