Julianne Westrich - Iditarod "Teacher on the Trail"

February 17: Librarian Julianne Westrich selected as Iditarod 'Teacher on the Trail' finalist
Posted on 02/17/2022

West Irondequoit elementary school librarian, Mrs. Julianne Westrich, has been chosen from a worldwide application pool as one of three Teacher on the Trail finalists for the 2023 Iditarod Sled Dog Race. As part of the selection/tryout process for next year, she is scheduled to leave next week and spend nine days working at this year’s race in Alaska.

“I am so excited for this amazing opportunity,” Westrich said. “It’s not only something that is very important to my family, but I can’t wait to expand my own knowledge of the race and bring it back to our students in West Irondequoit.”

Teachers from around the world apply annually for the Teacher on the Trail position. They must submit a portfolio with the application that includes showcase lessons on the Iditarod from their own classrooms and their own background with regard to performing tasks of the Teacher on the Trail. They also must submit letters of support from their school district and administrators, a video and answer important situational questions.  Going to Alaska for this year’s Iditarod is just the next round of competition. Finalists will work with Iditarod education committee members, present at the educators’ conference and do “assignments.” 

The two others finalists with Westrich are Cindy Emmons, a third-grade teacher from Highlands Ranch, Colo., and Kathleen Thompson, a fifth-grade teacher from Hartford County, Md. Westrich is in her fourth year working in West Irondequoit. Prior to that, she worked for the Rochester Museum and Science Center teaching preschool. Her work in West Irondequoit also included lessons on the Iditarod, a passion born in 2006. That’s when her daughter, then just 2 years old, fell in love with a stuffed animal that was a Husky dog.

“Even though we knew nothing about Siberian Huskies and nothing about dog sledding, it lit a spark and by the time she was 5 we knew everything about the Iditarod, and we’ve been following it ever since,” Westrich of the race that started in 1973 and covers 1,000 miles over the course of a month.

“This race is super important to my family. When something is as exciting and wonderful and fun as the Iditarod I felt like I needed to share it with all of my students in West Irondequoit.”

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