This story was originally written for Alaska Public Media.
This week we’re hearing from Jay Stange of Anchorage. Stange is a math teacher at Dimond High School.
STANGE: I was born in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, and I was adopted by a family that brought me to Alaska. I grew up in Juneau and then came to Spenard in 1975 when I was nine and went to Woodland Park Elementary, which is a close school that’s just down the street from my house right now.
I teach at Dimond High School, and you know, I’m 51 years old. And I’ve been teaching high school for seven years, so I came about being a teacher in a weird way.
I was working as a project manager, I was basically helping people insulate houses all over Alaska and building homes off the grid with some friends of mine. It was the summer solstice and I had a bunch of people staying here, and my couchsurfing guest showed up; she was late. She was the only couchsurfing guest that ever called on the telephone to make sure that I got the message that she was coming — and then she was late.
And I go down to the airport to pick her up because she calls late, right? She gets in my work truck — and you gotta understand at the time, I’m basically this random, Alaska carpenter dude. And she gets in the truck and I just take a quick glance in the back of my scary, white, panel van. There’s two chainsaws, there’s like random tools all over the place, it’s filthy, there’s wrappers everywhere. And she gets in and she doesn’t even notice, and she starts telling me a story. I don’t know, there was something about her.
I came home and I was like, “Hey, do you want the half hour bike tour of Spenard before I go back to work?” And she was like, “Yeah!” And she gets on and she can’t ride a bike. She’s like the only girl in Brooklyn that can’t ride a bike, right? So we did the best we could, and one thing leads to another and I end up falling in love with this girl. I went out to visit her that winter in New York City, and I didn’t come back for five years. When I came back, I had two kids, I was married and I was a school teacher.