Internationally educated Molly Yerkes taught English in China before becoming principal at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School in Juneau, Alaska. An engaged educator whose support of teachers is matched by her connection to the wider community, Yerkes encourages staff to take advantage of resources available outside of the classroom. She even created a fitness program for teachers to boost morale during the dark winter months. Earning the loyalty of teachers and students alike, Yerkes has become a valuable asset to Dzantik'i Heeni through a uniquely hands-on approach.
Yerkes' commitment to her teachers is on full display as she visits every classroom in the school each week, to observe and evaluate both staff and student progress. Cited by colleagues for her ability to effectively communicate, Yerkes brings along her laptop on these visits, taking notes so that she can provide the best feedback to teachers and parents, should they have a question. The classroom visits have been working. Scores for all subjects at Dzantik'i Heeni are above state average for every grade level. 7th-grade writing scores are 11% higher than the Alaskan average and 8th-grade math is an impressive 12% higher. Taking students to the next level, Yerkes promotes the AVID program, which encourages students to take advanced classes in preparation for college.
Juneau’s culture and resources are on full display when Yerkes hosts meet-ups downtown for her staff. Teachers are guided by Yerkes across the city, stopping at sites that have included the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, Russian Orthodox Church, and SeaAlaska preservation society. The interactive nature of these guided city walks not only builds morale among staff, but encourages them to share the academic advantages of the community with their students. No wonder teachers at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School have postponed retirement to continue teaching under Yerkes' leadership. As a visionary academic with a three-dimensional approach, Molly Yerkes is a principal for the future.