About the Alaska Arts Education Consortium

The Alaska Arts Education Consortium (AAEC) is an affiliation of school districts, organizations and individuals committed to preparing and supporting educators so that they can teach the arts across the curriculum.

AAEC Mission

AAEC advances teaching and learning in and through the arts across Alaska.

AAEC Purpose

Arts Education for All

AAEC Values

  • Arts are Essential
  • Collaboration and Partnership
  • Cultural Connectedness
  • Passion for Impact

Three committees work to achieve our goals:

Public Awareness Committee

AAEC promotes the awareness of the importance of teaching and learning in and through the arts

Professional Development Committee

AAEC prepares and supports educators to teach the arts across the curriculum

Sustainability Committee

AAEC expands opportunities to fulfill its mission through meaningful and ongoing relationships with partners, grantors, donors and alumni

The arts are vitally important as we strive to educate Alaskan students to be effective communicators and responsible, contributing citizens. In the broadest sense the arts…

  • Engage a variety of learning styles
  • Build self worth and pride of accomplishment
  • Provide opportunities to learn new skills and strategies
  • Develop critical thinking and the ability to creatively approach and solve problems
  • Foster self-discipline, teamwork and leadership capacities
  • Allow us to participate across circumstance in the ongoing conversation of humankind.

AAEC Board of Trustees

Barb Short

Barbara Short

Executive Director – Fairbanks

Barbara Short has worked as a visual art teacher, arts administrator and an active arts education advocate in Alaska for over 30 years and as an artist since childhood. She has lived in Fairbanks since 1977 and is still in awe of Alaska.

Barbara was a founding member of the Alaska Arts Education Consortium back in 2003 and is currently the part-time Executive Director for AAEC. Although she now helps organize institutes, she has taught in many arts & culture Institutes over the years. She has been married to her husband Ronan for over 40 years, has 2 thriving daughters and 4 creative grandchildren!

Robin Child

Vice-chair – Interior, Fairbanks, FY20

Robin Child currently serves as an Assistant Professor of Elementary Education at University of Alaska Fairbanks. She is passionate about connecting children with their geographical place, culture, and identity through the arts, and considers it a privilege to help inspire new educators with creative ideas to enhance their own teaching practices. She recently shifted from the Arctic to the Interior as a board representative for the AAEC, transitioning from her role as the Arts Integration Facilitator for the Bering Strait School District. She loves to play music (classical piano and old-time banjo) and to work with the medium of the cyanotype- which merges a passion for the outdoors, and processes of photography and printmaking.

Jeanne Kitayama

Vice-chair – Southeast, FY20

Jeanne Kitayama is a long-time Haines resident, semi-retired teacher, and owner of the Haines Brewing Company. She came to Alaska as a forestry technician, and fell in love with Haines in 1983. From selling sushi out of her truck, to school librarian, then museum educator, to certificated teacher, where she continues to follow the practices of Project Zero, Waldorf, and brain research in teaching and learning.

Kim Sweeny

Secretary/Treasurer Assistant – Member-at-Large, Homer, FY22

Kim lived, taught and brought the arts to her school in White Mountain from 1977 to 2011. As a Governor’s Arts and Humanities Award recipient, she was actively involved in Bering Strait School District Arts resource and program development and New Visions planning. Kim also worked on Alaska State Council on the Arts teams to increase arts integration and delivery in Alaska. Retirement has provided time to increase her involvement in AAEC along with the joys of a jobless life.

Peggy Azuyak

Western, FY21

Peggy was born and raised in Kodiak, and returned to the Kodiak Island Borough School District upon completing her Master’s Degree in Education. For thirteen years, she lived and worked in Old Harbor, on the eastern side of the island, where she served as the Special Education Teacher,began learning the Sugt’stun language and cultural arts. In 2015, she relocated to Kodiak and currently serves as the Principal of the KIBSD Rural Schools. Peggy also teaches the Alutiiq 101, 102, Alaska Native Language Apprenticeship, and Alaska Native Language Conversational Fluency Intensive courses at Kodiak College.

Joan Hornig

Interior Region, FY21

Joan Hornig is an Associate Professor of Education and the Coordinator of Fieldwork Experiences for the Elementary Department at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Her primary areas of teaching are arts education, social studies and language arts integration, classroom management and children’s literature. Joan coordinates fieldwork placements for elementary education students throughout the state which requires establishing strong working relationships with school districts throughout the state. Joan has a bachelor’s degree in studio art from the University of California at Davis and a master’s of fine arts in painting and an elementary teacher’s certificate from the University of Washington. Joan was an elementary public school teacher for eleven years before teaching at the university level.

Suzzuk (Mary) Huntington

Arctic Region, FY21

Suzzuk (Mary Huntington) is currently serving as the Coordinator of Cultural Programs for Bering Strait School District.  Current efforts focus on revitalization of the indigenous languages and dancing in the district and beyond.  She teaches cultural arts (Eskimo dancing, skin sewing and beading.) This is her first year on the AAEC Board.  Kigiqtaamiuguzruq inuuniaqtuq Uŋalaqłiġmi.  Quwiasuuraatuq atuqhama suli sulikhama.  (Suzzuk is originally from Shishmaref and lives in Unalakleet.  She is happiest when she sings and sews.)

Hannah Johnston

Southcentral, Eagle River, FY20

Hannah Johnston teaches classroom music at Homestead Elementary in Eagle River, Alaska. She has served on the AAEC board since 2014. Johnston graduated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks with a Masters of Arts in Trumpet Performance, Bachelors of Music in K-12 Music Education and Bachelors of Music in Trumpet Performance. She is currently in her ninth year with the Anchorage School District. She is a cohort facilitator, mentor for first, second and transition educators. Johnston currently serves in ASD’s Music Advisory Committee, as the Elementary Region 4 Representative for Alaska Music Educators Association, member of the Alaska Orff Chapter, and plays trumpet in the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra. Johnston has taught courses and presented sessions for district and state professional development conferences and in-services.

Nita Rearden

Member-at-Large, Homer, FY22

Nita Yurrliq Rearden, is a Yup’ik person, born and raised in Kotlik, Alaska on the lower Yukon River. After earning a degree in education she taught in Bethel for the Lower Kuskokwim School District and in Kotzebue for the Northwest Arctic Borough School District for a total of 28 years; she continues to work as an education consultant. Nita has a deep interest in Yup’ik art and developed a set of Art Kits for teachers, and spends time teaching educators how to use them and how to integrate cultural knowledge into all teaching. She advocates Alaska’s cultural and art standards and is a board member of the AAEC.

Katy Ritter

Katy Ritter is AAEC’s newest board member, beginning her first year in December 2019. She was hired by the Juneau School District in 2008, and has been working as an elementary school teacher at Sayeik: Gastineau School on Douglas Island for the past 12 years. Her passion is teaching through the arts, and has been fortunate enough to participate in several arts institutes sponsored by the AAEC, as well as the Artful Teaching cohort for the past 5 years, a group of Juneau teachers who receive year-round professional development in arts integration. Katy is currently serving on the district arts curriculum committee to develop and update the K-12 arts curriculum for the Juneau School District. When she is not devising new ways to integrate tableau, drama, dance, or shadow puppets into her science and social studies lesson plans, she enjoys swimming, knitting, and birding. She currently teaches 29 energetic and enthusiastic 3rd graders.

Anna Widman

Southcentral, Kenai, FY22

Alaskan artist Anna Widman explores landscape and its connection to the body, mind, and heart. Through running, photography, and painting she works on texturally rich canvas. Ever-changing beach patterns left by the tide is her current inspiration. These paintings demonstrate the temporality and beauty of both the landscape and body. Anna recently received her Master’s in Fine Arts degree from Lesley University. Living in Kenai, Alaska, Widman teaches art at Nikiski Middle/High School and had been an AAEC board member for a number of years. Integration of the arts and culture into curriculum in education is a passion she hopes to convey in her interactions with students and teachers in Alaska and beyond!


Laura Forbes


Laura Forbes (she/her/hers) is an arts administrative professional, program developer, educator and practitioner with more than two decades of experience in the public and nonprofit arts and culture sector. She grew up in community performing arts, and deeply values the opportunities she has had to engage in creative, expressive practice across her lifetime. Laura, graduated from the University of Alaska, Anchorage with a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre, and in 2012, she earned an M.Ed. in Integrated Teaching through the Arts from Lesley University. Most recently, Laura has been the Arts Education Program Director at the Alaska State Council on the Arts, with duties that include administering grants, development of networks, facilitation of Alaska Poetry Out loud, supporting the field of presenting and touring performing arts and visual art exhibition, and technical services for artists, educators, arts organizations and all Alaska’s citizens. Currently, Laura also serves as Board Secretary for Arts Northwest.

Annie Calkins

Evaluator/Historian – Juneau

Jessica Christianson

Sitka – Past Member/Chair

Debbie Harris

Anchorage – Treasurer


The Alaska Arts Education Consortium (AAEC) is a non-profit partnership of Alaskan school districts, the Alaska State Council on the Arts, Association of Alaska School Boards, Carnegie Hall, Alaska Department of Education and Early Development and the University of Alaska.

The organizational structure of the AAEC was determined in 2001, after serious consideration of which educational organizations and agencies had made a consistent, important imprint on the educational landscape of Alaska. Sustainability and having a statewide mechanism for delivery of services were two key components in these deliberations. AAEC received 501 (c) 3 status in 2003.

AAEC founding board members recognized from the start that they were “standing on the shoulders of giants” – of those who had contributed to arts education in Alaska over the last twenty-five years. They acknowledged the presence of the former Alaska Alliance for Arts Education as an active driving force for arts education advocacy for over two decades.

This statewide collaboration recognizes at its core that “the arts are vitally important as we strive to educate Alaskan students to be effective communicators and responsible, contributing citizens”. In the broadest sense the arts allow us to participate across circumstance, culture and time in the ongoing conversation of humankind, recognize the cultural diversity of Alaska, foster discipline, teamwork and leadership capacities, develop critical thinking and the ability to solve problems, provide opportunities to learn new skills and strategies, and build self worth and pride of accomplishment.

The AAEC holds as its committed mission a spririted advocacy for expanded and enriched arts education for all Alaskan students. A core belief of the AAEC is that higher academic achievement will occur in and through the arts. The AAEC is committed to preparing and supporting educators so that they can teach the arts in and across the curriculum.