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CHICAGO — Annie Kelley is about to undertake a trip like never before.

She will brave the extremely cold elements across 1100 miles of Alaskan terrain, as Illinois first ever – “Teacher on the Trail” on the Iditarod.

For the last eight years, the 4th grade teacher at St. Andrews School in the Lakeview neighborhood has used the last great race as a teaching tool in lesson plans introduced to her as a student teacher.  And her interest in the Iditarod has grown year after year.

In April of 2016, she beat out dozens of teachers from across the country to be named the 19th “Teacher on the Trail.”

It’s a major honor and one that comes with a mountain of work. She will be in charge of an extensive blog coupled with weekly Iditarod focused lessons for her students which she shares with teachers around the world.  There’s lessons in music, sportsmanship, health, reading and more.

“One thing I want them to take away from the year is just follow your dreams,” she says.  “Just know that whatever gets in your way you can overcome it, just keep moving forward and pushing on that’s what the mushers do in the race.”

Annie also Skypes with teachers and classrooms across the U.S. sharing her lesson plans and love of Iditarod.

In less than two weeks she herself is off to the races.  She will spend five weeks in Alaska learning first hand everything she’s been teaching in the classroom.

In the end develop a whole new set of lesson plans based on her own life experience for her anxious young students.

“It’s been a lot of work but when you see the excitement on the kids and you talk to the kids in the classrooms who have used your lessons you’re just like I’m doing this for the right reasons,” she says.