Steller Secondary School

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Steller Secondary School
Steller School Logo.png
"Only the Educated are Free"
Steller Secondary School is located in Anchorage
Steller Secondary School
Steller Secondary School
2508 Blueberry Road
Anchorage, Alaska
United States
Coordinates 61°11′51″N 149°53′35″W / 61.1975°N 149.8931°W / 61.1975; -149.8931Coordinates: 61°11′51″N 149°53′35″W / 61.1975°N 149.8931°W / 61.1975; -149.8931
Type Public alternative secondary
Established 1974
Principal Reed Whitmore
Faculty 23
Enrollment 281 (2016)
Colour(s) Blue, Royal Blue, Green             
Mascot Steller's Jay

Steller Secondary School is an alternative school located in Anchorage, Alaska. It is based on the philosophy of responsible freedom, personal initiative, and individualized education. The Anchorage School District established the school in 1974 as a response to a proposal by the Committee of Alternative Secondary Education. Steller was named after Georg Wilhelm Steller, a naturalist from Germany who traveled with Vitus Bering on an exploratory voyage to Alaska. The school was named after him because of his independence, love of knowledge, courage, and pioneering spirit.

Building History[edit]

For the first nine years of its existence, Steller was located in the old North Star Elementary School building. After much political activity by Steller parents, the Alaska Legislature approved funds to remodel the school and add a new gym as well as a drama facility/auditorium. In 1992, the auditorium was rebuilt after a structural failure caused the roof to collapse, leaving nearly everything ruined except for the stage's curtains. The voters of Anchorage approved a school bond in 2003 to provide funding for the addition of a new science lab and relocation and renovation of the staff lounge, offices surrounding the gymnasium, and the special education office. This construction was completed in October 2004.

Student Demographics and Government[edit]

Steller accepts students in grades 7-12 from anywhere in the Municipality of Anchorage through a lottery process. However, their student population is almost always maintained at under 300 students. Steller's governmental system is based on the advisory group, where each classroom teacher is assigned a group of 20-30 students. This advisory group elects 2 representatives to the Operational Group, which deals with the day-to-day school issues, as well as the student funds. Op Group is the government, where students come together and decide for the school. It is a joint executive and legislative branch of government, common in many schools.

In addition, a member of the advisory group (traditionally the high school (9-12) representative) is also a representative to the General Steller Community during All Community Meetings, which handles larger issues, such as the school's philosophy, policies and bylaws. The General Steller Community is notable because it has real power to change the workings of the school, from changing classroom hours, to eliminating the grading system (which has been considered, but never adopted) through an All Community Meeting. As a public school, Steller's policies must stay within the requirements of the Anchorage School District, but everything else is open to discussion and modification by the Advisory Board. On all committees where voting is involved, students always have a larger number of potential votes than staff or parents.


Students register for classes on a quarterly basis, although the entire semester's class schedule is provided for perusal. While Steller does offer some general classes (such as history I & II, biology, chemistry, and economics), many of the classes are more specific, focusing on creative writing or grammar, for example, rather than on a full spread of English studies.

Academic Competitions[edit]

Model United Nations[edit]

Steller has been participating in the Model United Nations competition for many years.

Mock Trial[edit]

Steller has participated in the Alaska Mock Trial Competition for a number of years. The school fielded two teams to the competition in 2005 and 2006, with the assistance of attorney-coaches Julia Moudy and Carmen Clark. A single team composed of remaining members from the former teams entered the competition in 2007, and the majority of those members (virtually all juniors) plan to return for one last go in February 2008.


The 2006-2007 school year marked Steller's first year of participation in the national Mathcounts competition. Eighth grade student Jed Grabman won the school competition and ascended through the state rankings to place 76th at the national competition in Texas.


Steller Secondary School is accredited by the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges.

Unique Educational Opportunities[edit]

Independent Study[edit]

In an independent study, students develop a contract with a teacher to pursue a subject outside of the regular school curriculum. Independent studies can be done within an SDL class or in an open period, and can be used to gain academic credit.


Intensives are two-week periods, held twice a year, in which the school ends regular classes and allows students and teachers to focus on a single subject all day for these two weeks. Popular intensives include skiing and snowboarding (held annually with three teachers, due to demand), internships in the community, and out-of-state traveling groups. Travel intensives, though popular in theory, are often difficult to arrange due to high costs and the need for wide student interest. Historically intensives are conducted with low academic standards often consistently lack intellectual rigor and lack relation to the school's core curriculum.


Also known as senior projects, a Passage is a class taken for a period of time ranging from one quarter to one year, in which a student selects a topic he or she is passionate about and does an extremely in-depth study on it, with a final project to show his or her accomplishments. Ideally the project will give something back to the school. Notable examples include the production of a school play and the building of a gazebo in the school's garden. Initially this class included a Comp IV (research writing) element, although this is not included at this time.

Peer-Taught Classes[edit]

Steller offers the option to take or teach peer-taught classes, in which students teach other students under the supervision of a teacher. Students must design lesson plans and present them to the staff prior to offering their class. Other members of the community are also able to teach classes with staff approval.

Self-Directed Learning (SDL)[edit]

This is a class administered by a teacher in which students develop a contract and study plan relating to a topic they are interested in. The student follows the plan with regular meetings with the sponsor, and makes a presentation to the class at the end of the quarter. SDLs are generally eligible only for elective credit unless they are used as an independent study.


Extramural Sports[edit]

Steller does not participate in sports within the Anchorage School District, but its students are allowed to play sports for a high school (or middle school depending on grade level) of their choice. This opportunity is not afforded to students in traditional schools within the ASD.

Intramural Sports[edit]

Many students and staff at Steller participate in an intramural gym hockey league. These games are closely followed by many members of the Steller community and culminate in a series of playoffs in late February.


Steller has a small staff, consisting of 13 full-time classroom teachers, one special education teacher and four office staff, as well as a part-time librarian and two music teachers who are shared with other schools within the school district. As such, staff turnover has a large effect on the Steller community.

Strategic Planning[edit]

Steller held a strategic planning session on May 14, 2005 with the Foraker Group, a nonprofit organization specializing in planning for nonprofits. The results of that meeting were sent to a wordsmithing committee consisting of approximately nine students, six parents, five staff members, and future principal Karin Parker. This committee met on May 25, 2005 and crafted the core purpose and core values for Steller, and is in a continual process of implementing the goals set forth in the strategic plan. The current focuses are on staff development, enhancing the new student orientation process, and development of the advisory group model.

Notable Alumni[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Gretchen Guess' LinkedIn profile Retrieved 19 July 2011
  2. ^ Steller website blog post Retrieved 19 July 2011