While mushers race sled dogs for miles across a snowy tundra during the 2019 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in March, a Massachusetts school teacher won’t be far behind.
Brian Hickox, an eighth grade teacher from Weymouth, will travel by small plane and snowmobile while serving as the official 2019 Iditarod “Teacher on the Trail” during what is called the “Last Great Race on Earth.” He will be educating students across Alaska before and during the more than 1,000 mile race, which runs from Anchorage to Nome. Hickox will build lesson plans using the Iditarod as a theme for teachers following his updates online, while also reporting on the day’s events.
This could mean a science lesson on the Northern Lights or a math lesson on how long it might take a particular musher to finish the race. Hickox also will visit schools and volunteer in villages the mushers use as checkpoints. In the opening ceremony, Hickox will be an “IditaRider” and joyride on the back of a musher’s sled.
“The ‘Teacher on the Trail’ is really a voice to teachers around the world,” said Diane Johnson, education director with the Iditarod Trail Committee. “He will share the Iditarod experience with them and help them to connect the race in their own curriculum.”
The once-in-a-lifetime experience offers the opportunity for adventure, something Hickox has long pursued through his love of skiing, hiking, skydiving, and white-water rafting. The application required an entire portfolio and Galvin Middle School in Canton, where Hickox teaches, helped him raise money for a trip to Alaska as a finalist.
“He’s certainly the perfect person for this,” said Maureen Holland, a fellow teacher at Galvin Middle School. “It’s so exciting for the kids to see this young man go off on an adventure.”
Hickox was a middle schooler when his history teacher discussed the Iditarod while reading Jack London’s “The Call of the Wild,” about a sled dog named Buck. Now Hickox does the same with his students.
“I’ll have kids research the mushers and have each kid select a musher and predict who is going to win,” Hickox said. “We’ll track the race as it progresses. It’s pretty fun.”Cristela Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @CristelaGuerra.