Z.J. Williams Memorial School

About the school

ZJ Williams Memorial School, originally built in 1982, moved to a new constructed location in 2016, with an expanded outdoor playground and basketball facility. It retained the same name. It is a Dual Language, K-12, school located in the remote rural Central Yupik Eskimo village of Napaskiak, Alaska. It serves approximately 155 students, K-12. Its only feeder school is a local run, state funded Headstart.

The new building offers the remote rural community not only an education for its students, but also hope for a stronger community. The school celebrated its grand opening during the last week of October 2016. Community leaders, community members and media attended the daylong celebration. It marked the beginning of a new chapter for Napaskiak, a chapter where: (1) students have an opportunity to learn and thrive in a comfortable and healthy environment; and (2) the community has a place to gather. The grand opening was covered by KYUK Local News: Napaskiak Celebrates Opening Its New School With The Hope For A Stronger Community

ZJ Williams Memorial School has 155 students all but two of which are of Central Yupik Eskimo descent. Eight-five percent of the student population qualifies for free lunch and 90 percent of the students are considered ELL with all students receiving sheltered English instruction on a regular basis. All of the students at the school are drawn from the city of Napaskiak, a community of 450+ citizens located on the Kuskokwim River approximately 7 miles from Bethel. Ninety-six percent of the local population is Native Alaskan with only 3% of the population considered white, and 1% black, drawn mostly from the teaching population. The school itself has 34 employees, 16 of which are teachers, 4 natives and 12 non-natives.

The context in which teaching and learning takes place influences the processes and procedures by which the school makes decisions around curriculum, instruction, and assessment. The context also impacts the way a school stays faithful to its mission to provide teaching and learning on a day-to-day basis. We are making more systematic efforts to increase the quality of education and improve the positive expectations at the school. To this end the school has implemented a variety of programs and services to engage students and support student learning for continuous improvement.

Our students are given a wide-range of educational opportunities both through District and local curriculum, which provide for a variety of course offerings. The orientation of instruction at the school is student-centered. Embedded in the instruction in every class are student-centered strategies that encourage student participation and engagement in their own education through a gradual release model. This gradual release of control to students is an ongoing effort to raise the level of student ability and to start them on path of managing their own lives.

Students lead their own parent/teacher conferences and are expected to manage their work portfolios. They have access to their grades on the PowerSchool system and monitor their progress through weekly grade checks. They may also, grades 3-12, attend After School Program (ASP), up to 4 days per week, to participate in mandatory acceleration programs, to meet eligibility requirements and work on course work. Beyond this tutoring is available upon request from individual teachers and staff.

Dual Language Model Program

Every school has its own story to tell and like any other school, ZJ Williams has strengths and challenges it encounters.  The current purpose/mission statement of ZJ Williams Memorial School states that we " incorporate traditional and modern values to provide a well rounded, bi-literate learning experience in Yup'ik and English". This statement is supported by the previous Yupik First Language program and the current Dual Language Model (DLE) that are in place to provide students with the literacy skills in both languages. The DLE has problem solving embedded in the curriculum and students are taught to rely on their own skills, those of their partners, and group mates to resolve educational problems.


At ZJW students are taught the tenets of positive behavior support, through Safe and Civil School’s CHAMPS, including what it is to be responsible, respectful, honest and to persevere, as well as resiliency skills that will carry them wherever they might go. The CHAMPS Foundations Team is a group of volunteer involved in the guidance and management of this discipline and management system.

Problem-Based Learning – Bilingual Learning Centers – Bilingual Research Centers

ZJW is working to increase the quality of instruction and student performance across the school, notably the middle grades where students do less well than the elementary and upper grades. Grades 7-12 are working on integrating problem-based learning opportunities into all of their classes, in effort to engage all learners and differentiate instruction. While in the upper elementary they are working on Bilingual Research Centers  and the lower elementary on Bilingual Learning Centers. Efforts to embed writing across the curriculum is an important part of this effort and facilitates thematic writing at all grade levels.

Response to Intervention (RTI)

Response to intervention, teacher-led and Aide-led, is a part of how instruction is done at the school levels. Within the classroom opportunities continue, with a focus on conceptual refinement and teacher-led RTI.  Student data is evaluated on an regular, ongoing basis to catch students before they fail and we are reaping the benefits from this diligence in both the math and reading areas, by putting findings into a student action plan (SAP), which is accessible to all and is an integral part of providing services.

School Leadership Team

We recently initiated a School Leadership Team is a group of volunteers involved in the guidance and management of the professional development efforts. It promotes teacher leadership and is essential to building capacity and the sustainability of all school programs.

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