Jessie Salway, who teaches at SAVE High School within the Anchorage School District, is a highly regarded math teacher who helps support her school's mission of empowering and supporting students.

“They haven’t had great connections with adults or teachers,” said Salway, who’s been teaching at SAVE for 14 years. “To be able to forge those connections in a comfortable environment is really, really fulfilling and it fills my cup, for sure.”

Specialized Academic Vocational Education, better known as SAVE, is a fully accredited, alternative high school. Juniors and seniors who are significantly behind in credit apply to attend and transfer to the school.

Salway started out as a substitute science teacher and enjoys working science and engineering into her math lessons. While she says that teaching is her calling, she at first found herself on a different professional path.

“I was like on the pre-med track in college,” she said. “I took a year off after college and came back home. I’m an Anchorage girl, I went to Service and I did some long-term subbing and I was at Benny Benson, which is another alternative program here in Anchorage, and I just fell in love with the idea of working with kids more one on one, and especially kids who really needed that extra attention and love.”

The class sizes are small at SAVE, which allows Salway to give kids that extra attention. She says it requires love and support, while holding students accountable as they balance school work and a job — a requirement for attending the alternative school.

“What they all have in common is they’ve had some sort of hiccup in their life that has made traditional high school really difficult for them,” Salway said. “Whether it’s a death in the family, or the fact that they're couch surfing and they don’t have a stable home, or they just skip school a lot, coming to SAVE provides them one last chance to make it right and to just give them that one last hand to say, ‘hey, no matter where you are, how much credit you have, how far behind you are, we’ll meet you where you are and bring you up.'"

The goal is simple for Salway. She wants her students to graduate on time and be prepared for the next phase in their lives, with one big takeaway after their time together.

“They can persevere and do anything they want. They just have to put the time, and the effort, and the energy in,” she said. “And a little positivity along the way too.”

Jessie Salway is KTVA’s Head of the Class.

Know an educator who deserves recognition? Nominate them for KTVA's Head of the Class.

Copyright 2019 KTVA. All rights reserved.