Community plans Iditarod sendoff

A year ago, Mount Pleasant Middle School teacher Martha Dobson was preparing to travel to Alaska to compete with teachers from all over the country to become the Target 2011 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail.

She won that honor, and now she's preparing for another trip to Alaska, this time to fulfill a bevy of duties connected with the Iditarod race and education.

The Iditarod is an annual sled dog race in Alaska that begins the first Saturday in March. The course is more than 1,100 miles long and generally takes teams of dogs and mushers from one to two weeks to complete.

As Teacher on the Trail, Dobson will follow the race by air, stopping and posting reports along the trail via the Internet. Her role is to provide teachers the resources to use the Iditarod as a teaching tool. She suggests activities, exercises and readings in all subjects and at all levels, and she generally engages students to use and learn skills as they discover more about the Iditarod.

The website ( already has lots of interesting information about the race, its history and the sled dogs. You can watch a video of Dobson trying on some of the gear she'll wear in Alaska.

Dobson said she's looking forward to posting "teachable moments" whenever Internet access is available.

More than a month before the race, Dobson already is posting information and giving talks as the Teacher on the Trail. Before she leaves for Alaska, she'll make about a dozen presentations to school and community groups. She tailors her talk to her audience - she gives different information to adults than to first-graders - but focuses on such aspects as her role at the race, dog care and the challenge of the race itself.

The question she is most often asked is: How cold is it in Alaska? So each post she makes along the trail will include a weather report for her location. The students at Mount Pleasant Middle will follow her on her adventure, and she wants them to know exactly where she is each day.

Mount Pleasant is understandably very proud of Martha Dobson and wants to show it. On Jan. 31, everyone is invited to the Mount Pleasant Library to hear her presentation. After her talk, refreshments will be served, and we'll all have a chance to wish her well on this great adventure.

As she travels the Iditarod trail, Dobson will meet people from cities and towns all over Alaska. She wants to learn more about them and tell them about N.C. people and places. So let's send give a great sendoff to Dobson, our Mount Pleasant ambassador to the Iditarod and students all over the country.