Junior Achievement
Andy Elliott
Sean Schubert

To Teach and to Serve

JA’s high-achieving educators and volunteers

By Scott Rhode

ach year, JA of Alaska recognizes an educator and a volunteer who have gone above and beyond to support the program and Alaska’s students as they learn critical financial information and skills. According to JA of Alaska Executive Director Flora Teo, “Volunteers are the backbone of JA. We have a lot of talented, amazing leaders in our business community, and it is truly special when you see volunteers walk into a classroom and see the excitement on kids’ faces.”

While JA volunteers are critical for the program, it’s educators who work every day to make sure Alaska’s students are prepared for the future. “Alaska has amazing educators who rally for our students every day,” Teo says.

Educator of the Year: Sean Schubert

Zombies infest Sean Schubert’s classroom at King Tech High School in Anchorage. The decorations are for Halloween (at the time of this interview), but they could easily unlive there year-round. Parked in front of the school, Schubert’s ride carries the license plate “INFCTN,” referring to the title of his 2012 novel about an Alaskan Undead Apocalypse, as the five-part trilogy grew to become.

JA of Alaska’s Educator of the Year is not trained as a teacher, but Schubert has taught himself to be a trainer. As the school’s workforce development coordinator, Schubert interacts with every student at King Tech. “If they’re looking for part-time work, I help them find that. If they’re looking for full-time summer work, I help them find that,” he says with the rapid-fire patter of a skilled wordsmith. He also counsels students on career steps after high school, helps them find scholarships, workshops their résumés, and instructs them in customer service, regardless of which trade they are studying.

Job placement is, in fact, Schubert’s trade. “I have a degree in English, but I discovered that I like doing this. This is my passion,” he says. After nearly twenty years working for the US Department of Labor’s Alaska Job Corps Center, Schubert worked for the State of Alaska before joining the Anchorage School District. His career flowed naturally to involvement with Junior Achievement.

One of the projects he’s most proud of is a virtual job fair while schools were closed for COVID-19, calling in contacts he’s made in the staffing world to help organize the statewide event for JA. “What I do is really the culmination of what a lot of people have done,” Schubert says, “so in being awarded this, I accept the award for everybody else who’s led the charge up to my point.”

Teo says, “Sean is a great example of an educator that connects students to employers by helping them see a future for themselves… Because of him, Junior Achievement had more than sixty students interview, with some receiving jobs during a time when employers were struggling to hire staff. Students are still getting hired because of the work that he did.”

Sean Schubert’s side gig as a horror author is no secret to students at King Tech High School.

Alaska Business

Sean Schubert standing at door of classroom

Sean Schubert’s side gig as a horror author is no secret to students at King Tech High School.

Alaska Business

King Tech remains Schubert’s main occupation while he continues writing on the side. His most recent book, published in 2019 by Tennessee-based Permuted Press, extended the Alaskan Undead Apocalypse. His 2017 book, Fyre, broke from the series to explore a more mythological mood, still set in a ruined Alaska landscape. He has two more books in the works. “I do the writing thing just because it’s fun,” he says. “Getting published was kind of an accident.”

Volunteer of the Year: Andy Elliott

JA has been part of Andy Elliott’s life since he was going to high school in Indiana. His economics teacher offered extra credit for volunteering at a middle school class. “We made ink pens,” he recalls. “Part of that, you’d learn the difference between assembly line production or unit by unit and, depending on the product, which one is the best way to make something.”

Elliott set aside volunteering with JA for a decade, during which he enlisted in the US Army straight out of college. He was posted to Fort Richardson, where “Mr. Andy” taught the JA curriculum at schools on base. Once out of uniform, he managed property with Weidner Apartment Homes for sixteen years until he lost his “why.” He discovered a new “why” by reflecting on his mother’s suicide in 1999, partly driven by financial distress.

To help others avoid and/or overcome money problems, Elliott became a financial services professional. Zo Financial CEO Buddy Bailey suggested that he join New York Life, and now Elliott provides life insurance, investment advice, retirement planning, and long-term care arrangements.

A financial educator for kids through JA, Andy Elliott advises adults at his day job with New York Life, often meeting clients at Jitters in Eagle River.

Alaska Business

A financial educator for kids through JA, Andy Elliott advises adults at his day job with New York Life, often meeting clients at Jitters in Eagle River.

Alaska Business

Andy Elliott advises adults at his day job with New York Life

“Once we’ve met and you’re my client, I view it as a lifelong relationship,” he says. “If you’re a young family, I’m gonna be there to see your children grow up, get their drivers licenses, go to prom, go to college, and make you grandparents.”

Now that he’s become a financial professional, he says his responsibility to JA has increased. “There isn’t anything required in schools about financial education,” Elliott observes. “Until then, we fill that role, or try to.”

His work, both with New York Life and JA, is an expression of his faith. “I view it as a way to love and serve,” he says. “Love has many forms, and that is one way to do it: by giving and serving.”

According to Teo, “People like Andy are great examples of how someone who loves what they do can share that enthusiasm with a young person through Junior Achievement and hopefully inspire them to find purpose and hope for their future.”

Although he is Junior Achievement Alaska’s Volunteer of the Year, Elliott acknowledges that he is one of many. “I’m very blessed to be able to do it,” he says, and he tries to inspire others, whether at church or in the office, to volunteer for themselves.