In Alaska, as elsewhere in the United States, standardized American English is privileged over both local varieties of English and Indigenous languages. This privileged position is maintained, in part, through a deficit model of language acquisition and a model of school success which locates the source of underachievement among K-12 students within the child rather than within the broader sociopolitical context of school and schooling. Using a critical participatory action research approach, this article examines a single graduate course for K-12 teachers intended to address ideologies of linguistic deficit and demonstrate that the varieties of English spoken by adults and children in Southwest Alaska are systematic and rule-governed. Data are analyzed in terms of trajectories of learning, focusing on three distinct points within this trajectory: Pre-course questionnaire, Mid-point questionnaire and post-course artifacts (e.g., final projects for the master’s degree). Through the lens of discourse analysis (Gee, James Paul. 2010. An introduction to discourse analysis: Theory and method , 3rd edn. New York, NY: Routledge), we illustrate and discuss the tensions inherent in shifting discourse models as the teachers contend with course content that challenges broadly accepted explanations for school underachievement.