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Ticasuk Brown 1st Fairbanks school named for Alaska Native

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Posted: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 10:51 am, Tue Oct 8, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — Although Ticasuk Brown Elementary School is under the new leadership of Principal Shawna Henderson this school year, the vibrant atmosphere and the legacy of academic excellence inspired by the school namesake remain the same.

Ticasuk Brown Elementary, located off Lakloey Drive, opened in September 1987 and was notable in that it was the first Fairbanks school to be named after an Alaska Native. The school board selected the name of Emily Ticasuk Ivanoff Brown from 43 submissions.

Brown was a renowned Alaska Native educator who was known for her tireless work to preserve traditional Alaska Native languages and culture. Born in Unalakleet in 1904, Brown earned her teaching certificate in Oregon and began her teaching career in Kotzebue, however, the course of her life quickly changed after witnessing various health hazards in the village.

Her experience in Kotzebue inspired her to study nursing in Washington where she met her future husband. The two later returned to Alaska and resumed teaching after her husband’s unexpected death.

Brown had many accomplishments throughout her educational career. She developed a curriculum guide for Inupiaq Eskimo language, published several books, earned three degrees, and worked at the University of Alaska Fairbanks on an Eskimo encyclopedia up until the time of her passing in 1982 at age 78.

Today, students at Ticasuk Brown participate in wide variety of innovative activities including a music class in which students create instruments and compose accompanying rhythmic pieces specifically for the instruments.

The school serves approximately 550 students in kindergarten through fifth grade and has 75 full and part-time staff members.

The new principal, however, was not an unfamiliar face to students this fall — she previously served as assistant principal. Henderson’s bright and constant presence is known throughout the school from the office, to the hallways, to the parking lot and can be seen in her weekly newsletters posted on the school website.  

In her newsletter this week, Henderson reminds parents and friends to attend the annual Spaghetti Feed and Silent Auction at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 17. The event will feature fun family-oriented activities and will benefit the school technology program. Silent auction basket themes include movies, sports, spa, kitchen, and more. Dinner is $5 per serving or $20 for a family.

The word Ticasuk translates as, “Where the four winds gather their treasures from all parts of the world ...  the greatest of which is knowledge” — certainly a fitting sentiment for a special school.

Learn more about Ticasuk Brown Elementary and the annual Spaghetti Feed and Silent Auction at

This column is provided as a service by the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. Bill Bailey and Johanna Carson can be reached at

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