Temperance Tinker Kays has taught just about every level of English at Alaska’s West Anchorage High School, including grade level, honors, International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced Placement (AP). She’s revered for her ability to pull more out of her students than even they know is possible. Tinker Kays creates a calm, nurturing, supportive environment where intellectual risks are celebrated and supported, and students work hard to meet her high standards. She creates “Vocab Slam” events, where students use vocabulary words they encounter during literature units to create unique slam poetry, and her classes’ work hangs from the ceiling, spills into the hallways, and is displayed at the district’s offices. Tinker Kays mentors many of West’s National Merit Scholarship semifinalists, helping them hone writing and presentation skills, as well as IB students completing their required “Extended Essay” research projects. West students know Tinker Kays wants them to grow into well-adjusted, compassionate, productive humans, and that she will be there to help them on that journey.
Tinker Kays models important behavior for her students: how to be a critical and creative thinker, communicate openly, think outside the box, and listen to opinions from across the spectrum. To help them build confidence and find their voice, she initiated a collaboration with StoryWorks, a local organization that helps students develop and share personal stories. West students have performed for hundreds of audience members at live storytelling events produced by Arctic Entries and MHATS (Mental Health Advocacy Through Storytelling). Tinker Kays advised a cohort of juniors and seniors as they researched, developed curriculum, earned district-level approval, and then delivered peer-led education on consent and dating violence. As sponsor for West’s Partners Club, Tinker Kays has participated in activities like bowling, skiing and an annual “Polar Plunge” for life skills students and teen mentors, teaching students how to participate with medically fragile students and growing the program significantly. ESPN named West to its 2019 Honor Roll as part of the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools National Recognition Program.
An integral part of the West community, Tinker Kays has mentored many new teachers, coached soccer, and served as faculty sponsor for the Partners Club, Hammock Club, and Spoken Word Clubs. She often brings community members into her classroom for career exploration and workshops, eager to help students find their paths after high school. Tinker Kays welcomes former students to share their post-secondary successes. When the pandemic prevented West’s traditionally festive graduation ceremony, Tinker Kays penned handwritten letters to every one of her former students and presented them when the graduates arrived at school to pick up their diplomas.
Tinker Kays earned a bachelor’s in anthropology in 2003 from Northern Arizona University; a post-graduate diploma in English in 2006 from the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand; and a MAT (Master of Arts in Teaching) in 2007 from the University of Alaska, Anchorage.
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