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Off to Alaska

After 12 years of teaching her students about the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, Linda Fenton is ready to be part of this year’s race.

She is the 2013 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail.

“It started off small, and now, it’s turned into this. It’s amazing,” said Fenton, who left Monday, Feb. 18 for Anchorage, Alaska.

A teacher for 15 years, Fenton teaches third grade at Waupaca Learning Center, and the school’s students and staff had a send off for her on Friday, Feb. 15.

“Today, we’re here to celebrate a big accomplishment by one of our own – Mrs. Fenton,” Principal John Erspamer said.

Students in kindergarten through fourth grade had mini Iditarod games.

Not long into the school year, a committee formed to plan activities centered around the race.

“It’s so cool. It’s just amazing the support I’m getting here,” Fenton said.

Each classroom door in the school is a checkpoint for the actual race, and all of the classes, as well as office staff, chose a musher.

They will follow their mushers, moving them for checkpoint to checkpoint.

As the mushers come in, Fenton’s students will be graphing them on a bulletin board in the commons.

The annual sled dog race from Anchorage to Nome covers 1,049 miles in honor of Alaska being the 49th state.

It begins on Sunday, March 3.

It takes most participants between nine and 15 days to finish the course.

“The winner will come in, in about eight days,” Fenton said.

Before the race begins, Fenton will spend time in classrooms, be part of the Junior Iditarod and be a presenter at the 2013 Winter Conference for Educators, Feb. 26 to March 1, in Anchorage.

Once the race begins, she will fly from checkpoint to checkpoint, blogging and posting photos and video over the Internet, sharing her observations with students and teachers in classrooms around the world.

Fenton, who learned to fly seven years ago, said the flights will be interesting.

Her experience with flight, including the fact she does not mind being in small planes, was something she brought to the table during the application process.

Approximately 32 volunteer pilots handle the drop bags for the mushers, all the equipment and food and, of course, the Teacher on the Trail

“I will be Skyping on the trail with my class and other classrooms around the world,” Fenton said.

Last March, she made her first trip to Alaska as a finalist for the Iditarod Teacher on the Trail.

“I can’t believe it’s happening. Now, I just have to let it happen,” she said. “I can’t put into words what the experience means.”

On Friday, Feb. 15, the school’s staff surprised her by wearing light blue T-shirts which said, “We love our Teacher on the Trail.”

Fenton thanks her family for being so supportive and letting her follow her dream.

“It’s so hard to put it into words. It’s just been an overwhelming experience. I’m trying to be in the moment with it,” she said. “I worked very hard to this point. Now, I just want to enjoy the experience. I can’t thank the school enough. The support from the school has been overwhelming, from the teachers to John (Erspamer) to Dr. (David) Poeschl to the school board. They’ve all jumped on board.”

Go to http://itcteacheronthetrail.com/ to read Fenton’s blog.

As last week’s send off came to an end, she said, “I will be talking to all of you from Alaska the next time I talk to you.”

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