Graduate students bring special education resources to Palau

Graduate students bring special education resources to Palau

Graduate students bring special education resources to Palau

(Standing, from left) Gilbert Mangosong; Joy Woodward; Shannel Leon Guerrero; Rita-Rose Gilbert; Rovee Ann Rios; Ferdene Gale Dela Cruz; Jocelyn Borja; Julie Reyes; and Dominic T. Uson, all graduate students in the University of Guam School of Education’s special education program; and (seated, from left) Dr. Jacquelyn D. Cyrus, assistant professor at UOG; Dr. Catherine Cardenas, assistant professor at UOG; Eydeline Ikeya, director of the Belau Head Start Program; Dr. Suzanne Bells, assistant professor at UOG; M. Nora G. Singeo, education manager for the Belau Head Start Program; and Dr. Velma Sablan, professor at UOG.

 

Graduate students bring special education resources to Palau

Bibrurek. Bekerkard. Bengt. A classroom spoke the Palauan words for yellow, red, and purple as Rita-Rose Gilbert, a master’s student studying special education at the University of Guam, watched from the front of the classroom. Her pupils were the parents of children with disabilities enrolled in the Belau Head Start program in Palau.

The latest cohort of master’s degree candidates studying special education at the University of Guam concluded their degree program by traveling to Palau to share classroom curricula that they developed with teachers and parents.

Each student chose a popular children’s book and built a full lesson plan around it, modified for specific disabilities, for the teachers and parents to use.

“This was a first-time achievement for the UOG School of Education Special Education program. It yielded positive results for both the graduate students and the partnering program of Palau,” said UOG Assistant Professor Suzanne Bells, who led the cohort.

The School of Education cohort partnered with the Belau Head Start program of Palau, a federal program that supports the early childhood education of low-income children and children with disabilities. The program has 21 teachers and 17 assistant teachers and serves 350 children.

The educators in the Head Start program had expressed concern about having limited resources and supplies to make adaptations and modifications to their curriculum for children with disabilities.

“The UOG School of Education graduate students wanted to bridge the gap across the Marianas and Micronesia. They wanted to provide professional development for teachers and families to ensure that children with disabilities receive the education they deserve,” Bells said.

 Shannel Leon Guerrero, a graduate student studying special education at the University of Guam, presents her research project to parents and teachers of students with disabilities in Palau.

Shannel Leon Guerrero, a graduate student studying special education at the University of Guam, presents her research project to parents and teachers of students with disabilities in Palau.

From Sept. 27 to Oct. 1, a group of nine students presented their capstone research project — “Building Bridges for Our Island Students” — to educators and parents in Palau. The project included research topic presentations, distribution of materials, including classroom supplies and USB drives, and participant assessments by UOG Professor Velma Sablan and Assistant Professors Catherine Cardenas and Jacquelyn Cyrus.

Six of the graduate students provided Head Start teachers with six different curricula, each modified for specific disabilities. The other three students provided parents of children with disabilities three different learning curricula to supplement what the children learn in the classroom.

Some of the students were nervous about how their programs would be received in another culture but were surprised by the outcome. “I was really blown away by their participation,” said Rovee Ann Rios, one of the graduate students.

Gilbert Mangosong, another student in the cohort, said meeting the Palauan educators was humbling for him.

“While they don’t have many resources, they still do what they need to do to educate their students. I come back here and look what we have. We have more. The takeaway is that I need to reevaluate myself as a teacher. If they can do it with less, I can do it as well,” he said.

The one common takeaway from the experience for all nine members of the cohort was the difference they made to the people of Palau.

“[They] were energetic, motivated, and appreciative of the training,” said graduate student Jocelyn Borja. “They put in a request to Head Start for more training based on what we did. I felt like we did have an impact on them, and as a professional I was able to share my knowledge and strategies that I’ve gained over the course of this program.”

Bells said the capstone project gave the students real-life experiences that will be valuable in properly recognizing and supporting their special education students.

“These are certified teachers in the program gaining advanced knowledge and applications in the field of special education to advance their careers,” she said.

The graduate students will receive their master’s degrees in special education at the Fanuchånan 2018 commencement.


 

For more information on UOG’s Master of Education in Special Education degree program, please visit this webpage or contact Dr. Suzanne Bells at 735-2430 or suzannebm@triton.uog.edu.