When newly minted Iditarod veteran Colleen Robertia of Kasilof walked into Room 107 at Soldotna Elementary last week, she might have thought she was entering a room of aspiring investigative journalists.
Sherri Baktuit's second-graders followed mushers in this year's Iditarod as part of an Alaska history unit, and when they got a chance to meet one in person, they were ready for a grilling.
"Do you ever win?"
"What's your inspiration?"
"Who was the hardest person to pass?"
"What do you feed your dogs?"
"What do you eat?"
Robertia fielded questions as fast as the little hands shot up around the room.
The students poked and prodded into the different aspects of the sport.
"Did you ever get hurt?"
Robertia recounted more than a few stories from the trail, telling the kids about her bruised feet, frostbit fingertips and how her lead dog Penny pulled the team through a few tricky situations.
But Baktuit's kids wanted to know about more than just the Iditarod; they asked Robertia about her past, her love of animals and how she ultimately came into the sport.
The talk might have been enough to convince a few of the students out of making their own bid in the Last Great Race -- at least for now -- but for others, Robertia's tales lefts sparks in their eyes.
"Colleen was like the icing on the cake," Baktuit said. "The kids have learned a lot about the Iditarod but now they get a person who has real actual experience."
The students also have had a chance to get up close and personal with mushing equipment thanks to one of Baktuit's colleagues at the school.
"This increased our awareness," she said. "It's just a way when we're studying the state of Alaska, and Alaska is so huge, that Iditarod Trail goes through a lot of different villages."
Baktuit said that as the students followed the race they got a chance to take a look at parts of the state that are much different than the Kenai as well as learn about the ways people lived in the past.
Dante Petri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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