In a couple of weeks, Martha Dobson will be one of the few people in the world who gets to experience the dog days of winter.
On March 6, the Mount Pleasant resident and Mount Pleasant Middle School teacher will begin her two-week journey following the world-renowned Iditarod sled dog race in Alaska.
Dobson was selected as the 2011 national Teacher on the Trail. That means she was invited to participate in the near two-week event and develop Iditarod-themed lesson plans accessible to students and teachers around the world before, during and after the race.
A veteran of a half-dozen trips to Alaska, Dobson is scheduled to leave for the northern frontier on Monday. During the two-week prelude to the race's start, she will make presentations at schools and speak at the annual Iditarod winter teachers conference, which she attended in previous years.
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After a parade-like ceremonial start in Anchorage on March 5, the race of more than 1,100 miles will begin the following day in Willow, Alaska. Dobson will be there.
During the race - in which more than 50 mushers and their 16-dog teams compete - Dobson will travel by plane among the two dozen checkpoints. Throughout her travels she will be blogging and posting daily web reports on the outdoor temperature and wind speed.
Teams will cross the finish line in Nome after about nine to 15 days. Dobson expects to return to North Carolina on March 23.
Dobson was named Teacher on the Trail after last year's Iditarod. It was her third try after applying in 2008 and in 2009.
Having developed an affinity for the annual race through her previous visits to Alaska, Dobson was already teaching Iditarod-themed lessons to her Mount Pleasant Middle School language arts students when she was chosen to take her talents worldwide.
Her duties as Teacher on the Trail picked up speed shortly after the end of last school year. In late June and early July, Dobson spent three weeks at the summertime Iditarod teacher conference, in part learning to use the blogging website on which she would post her Iditarod lesson plans.
As soon as she returned home, Dobson started posting. Check out the website now (itcteacheronthetrail.wordpress.com) and you'll find lessons and discussions on a variety of grade levels and disciplines, including Iditarod-inspired poetry and math problems.
As a result, Dobson has achieved a quasi-celebrity status. She has received e-mails from as far away as Florida and California from people interested in her posts.
"Some of them know a lot about the race," Dobson said. "Some know a little bit about the race. Some have just stumbled on me on the Internet. Someone from California was putting together something for her Daisy (Girl Scout) troop about being courageous and strong."
Locally, teachers and community libraries have ratcheted up demand for her to make presentations. Accompanied by a used dogsled she bought recently, Dobson usually makes a Power Point presentation on the race.
Dobson will receive a lot of attention once she's on the Iditarod trail, too, but she will be far from pampered. For typical room and board, she said, she'll have to find a sleeping space on the floor of the village school and eat such native cuisine as deer jerky and preserved salmon.
With her newly purchased anorak (heavy pullover coat) and pair of mukluks (boots), Dobson is confident she is prepared for the harsh climate. Traveling arrangements, however, permit her to carry only basic toiletries and one change of clothes.
"One of the teachers (who have served previously as Teacher on the Trail) said sometimes brushing your teeth is as good as a shower out there," Dobson said.
After nearly two weeks of those conditions, Dobson will surely be thinking there's no place like Nome.