Questa Harper loves reading. She loves libraries and numerous genres, especially British mysteries from the golden age of detective fiction. She’s currently reading Billy Collins’ "Sailing Alone Around the Room", Charles Dickens’ "Little Dorrit", Thor Heyerdahl’s "The Ra Expeditions", and Timothy Keller’s "Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions".
That love of literature led her to earn a B.A. and a master’s degree in English, and it is what inspires her many years teaching at Kodiak College.
“We’re so surrounded by the written word, we have lost our sense of how powerful it is. How much it matters,” she says. “In class we talk about the two definitions of the word spell: It’s to put letters together into a word, but it’s also putting words together to make something happen. We read essays to gain some sense of how wonderful reading is. Books are the way to break through, and the other is to write. Everyone has something to say.”
Questa started teaching during graduate school at UAA. She has taught English 111, Critical Thinking, writing and grammar courses for the Smart Start program at Kodiak College, and currently teaches Writing 090 and 110.
For students who’ve struggled with reading and writing in the past, her warmth and patience make her an ideal teacher. On the first day of class, she assures her classes that writing is “a skill you can acquire, it’s not something you have to be born with. It’s something you can learn.”
After several decades at Kodiak College, she says, “I’ve seen the college become much more responsive to the needs of the community. That’s been a wonderful shift.”
She appreciates the college’s small class sizes, which allow her to invest in students individually. And she appreciates, “How hard students are working just to be able to go to school. I feel honored to stand in front of them. They’re working two and sometimes more than two jobs, and trying to study as well. I always feel like I need to bring them my very best.”
She also enjoys working with Taten Sheridan. “He is a wonderful Developmental Director, and Evelyn was before him. I feel like we genuinely collaborate.”
Questa grew up in Kodiak. She met her husband when he was stationed here in the Coast Guard. They moved back to the island after finishing up postsecondary schooling and raised four children here. They value the way that fishing anchors our community, subsistence fishing, gathering firewood, hunting, the many beaches for beachcombing, and the summer months of gardening.
“I like how Kodiak is connected to where your food comes from, and where your heat comes from.”
Questa says, “I love walking around in the spring at Crab Festival and seeing people and talking to people you’ve only seen a little bit over the winter.”
Their family has spent every summer since 2007 on Woody Island. Questa went to camp there as a third grader, and over the years she has served as a counselor, a chaplain, a cook and caretaker. She heads up food buying and recruiting cooks and helps with the kitchen, which feeds over 90 campers and staff each week for a month. She also cooks for the women’s retreat on Woody every September.
She says that as much as she enjoys cooking, she couldn’t do it for money. “Cooking is something I do for love.”
Her favorite things about Camp Woody are spending time with children, and living with “the layers of history that are there, from Alutiiq history through the Russian history and ice making, the orphanage and camp and the WW II Naval base—our main lodge is a WWII 63 person barracks.”
She didn’t set out to work with the Camp Woody Ministry for 20 years, but looking back she can see the growth and gains that have come from it. She says it has taught her the value of faithfulness.
“Like teaching this many years—I’m so thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to do it again and maybe do it a little better these many years.”