2020 Reflection: Judy Bittner – IHTA

by Judy Bittner, President – Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance

The big event on the Iditarod NHT that brings national and international attention to the Trail takes place the first two weeks in March – the 1,000 mile Iditarod Dog Sled Race.  

Awareness of the pandemic was in its infancy.  The race started in Anchorage and Willow with the usual big crowds cheering on the mushers.   

It ended in Nome with social distancing, cancelled banquets and memories of the 1918 flu epidemic that had devastated Alaskan rural communities 100 years ago.  

Luckily, the COVID-19 virus stayed away and the race finished virus free.   

The teachers in the Iditarod Trail to Every Classroom (iTREC!) class of 2019-2020 were very disappointed when the 3rd and final workshop to be held in Nome a fews weeks after the finish of the Dog Sled Race, was cancelled.  

The iTREC! sponsors – IHTA, Forest Service, BLM, and education specialist Delia Clark – quickly shifted gears and successfully converted to a zoom classroom format and iTREC! completed its training on schedule.  

At the time, it was a huge challenge.  We had little or no experience with virtual classrooms.  By the end of 2020, iTREC’s place-based, service-learning program had shifted to online learning.  

Ten years of working together, a strong commitment to the program, an abundance of talent, and friendships guided the iTREC! partnership through the early days of pandemic chaos to a shift in practice and the development of quality online educational webinars for the iTREC! class of 2020-2021.