Cherry Valley students enjoy exciting first-hand Iditarod tales with musher Jan Steves

  • Written by Leanne Christensen, RSD
This photo was taken last spring when Jan Steves and fellow musher Bob Chlupach visited Cherry Valley. From left, students Aaron Kyle, Amy Jacobs, Gavin McDermott, Carson Campbell, Alyssa Powell, Melani Hernandez, Nathan Moser, Makenna Thompson. Courtesy photo.
Students  in the Cherry Valley Learning Room enjoyed a wonderful surprise visitor this past month, as professional musher Jan Steves  returned  yet again to share of her exciting Iditarod adventures. Jan took the time to answer students’ questions about her past Iditarod experiences, and explained to them her plans as she prepares to go back to Alaska in training for the upcoming 2013 Iditarod.

Last spring Steves and fellow musher Bob Chlupach  came to Cherry Valley Elementary to talk about their passion and experiences regarding the  invigorating and some times dangerous sport of mushing, and of Jan’s dream of achieving her first finish in a race which has been called “The Last Great Race.”

After studying and learning about the Iditarod race, these “face to face”  presentations have been quite inspiring to not only the students, but to CVE  instructor Julie Eppenberger as well.

The boys and girls in the Learning Room have studied the history of the Iditarod including the 1925 Serum Run and have read books and articles about Balto – the inspirational Lead Dog.Students have also read biographies on many of the mushers, studied their  statistics and then chose two mushers to follow last year.

Through this process, students have learned military time – as they mapped and tracked their mushers each day, they learned that a dog running the Iditarod needs 10, 000 calories a day during the race and then figured out how many Big Macs that would be.

Students  also followed Jan’s blog online as she prepared for the race. Jan also posted pictures and answered the students’  questions online. So many exciting details... the students realized that  preparing for the race is   nearly as grueling as running in  it! During her travels, Jan also sends personal postcards to the students to keep them informed and up to date.

Mrs. Eppenberger shares, “Jan is such an inspiration to the kids each time  she visits, especially in speaking of  her life and the importance of following your dreams and enduring to the end.  She shares intriguing  stories about encounters  with moose – both during training and on the trail, and temperatures that get to be 50 degrees below zero.  She even brings parts of her gear, a snow hook, and her Red Lantern award, which encourages even more curiosity and questions from the kids.”

Having the opportunity to meet and talk with Jan during her visits has enabled the students to understand the long and impressive history behind  this “Great Race,”  as well as enlighten them to the many opportunities they can create when they have the persistence, patience and  tenacity to follow their dreams.

If you would like to know more about Jan Steves and follow her blog, go to If you would like to learn about the Iditarod go to

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