I would like to thank the people of Alaska for the public education I received as a student of the Anchorage School District and the University of Alaska Anchorage. Three years ago, after receiving my Ph.D. from the University of Colorado in cancer biology, I returned to Alaska as a cancer researcher and educator.

As a student in the Anchorage School District, I received a well-balanced education that provided me with the knowledge I needed to be successful in college. My classes contained students from various backgrounds, abilities and socioeconomic status that positively influenced my education and the person I’ve become today.

At Klatt Elementary School, Mears Middle School and Dimond High School, I fell in love with science because my teachers were passionate about the subjects they taught. My education in the Anchorage School District benefited from reasonable class sizes and high teacher morale that allowed for individual attention and dedication of the instructors to stand out. I am concerned by current talk of cutting these high-quality instructors and by the negative tone that has permeated the conversation. The job insecurity and the lack of respect we give to teachers who are a pillar of our community will inevitably drive down morale and teaching quality.

[Alaska Senate cuts scholarships and financial aid to fund ‘innovation’ grants]

At the end of my senior year, I received the UA Scholars Award for graduating in the top 10 percent of my class. I chose athletics over academics and began college in Utah under a full gymnastics scholarship only to realize that my ambition to become a scientist did not fit well with the 30-hours-per-week gymnastics schedule. I chose to return home to Alaska because of my academic UA Scholars Award, which provided the incentive and support I need to complete college. At UAA, I received a research grant and worked for three years under Dr. John Kennish in the ASET lab before deciding to go on to graduate school.

With the education and research opportunities I received through the UAA undergraduate research program, I was better prepared than other students from top-tier universities who had not had an in-depth research experience.  Every step of the public education system in Alaska is a success, preparing strong and disciplined thinkers who join the Alaska workforce and contribute to our economy and community.