Upcoming UOG grad shares lessons from ancient navigators
Rosalita Santos Hosono has reached an 18-year milestone as a public elementary school teacher in Saipan.
She loves teaching students in kindergarten through third grade and felt she could also do more for her professional growth.
So, she signed up for a program that was not available at home but was offered for the first time at the University of Guam for Northern Marianas educators to pursue a bachelor’s degree in CHamoru Studies – through distance learning.
“It will enhance my teaching history and language about the CHamoru and Carolinian language and culture,” she said.
Hosono is one of 17 Northern Marianas Public School System educators who will be conferred their Bachelor of Arts degree in CHamoru Studies during the Fanuchånan 2022 commencement at UOG on Dec. 18. This program is funded with a grant that the National Endowment for the Humanities provided to UOG’s Global Learning and Engagement.
The Northern Marianas teachers will be acknowledged as among more than 250 graduates at the Dec. 18 commencement at UOG, and a separate, in-person commencement ceremony will also be held in Saipan on Dec. 28.
Signing up for the program two years ago was the perfect opportunity for Hosono, who did not want to leave her family in Saipan and her classroom in pursuit of higher education. What UOG had offered provided the perfect balance for her.
Hosono teaches CHamoru language, and she also offers a unique perspective: Her heritage is Carolinian, and this has allowed her to broaden her young students’ knowledge.
“I usually start my year with the short introduction on who, where, how and why I would be teaching them the Carolinian language and culture. On our island, we have two indigenous people – the Chamorro and Carolinian.”
Typhoon devastation and famine drove her ancestors from the Caroline Islands archipelago and set sail for the Marianas in the 1800s using traditional outriggers.
They looked to the skies and the seas for navigation.
“They were great canoe navigators using only the weather, ocean movements, the birds around them, sun and stars that before then they would travel to other islands through a water route called the Metawal Wool,” Hosono said.
Metawal Wool is a well-documented sea trading route centuries ago. The island nations of the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau now encompass some of the islands and atolls that were part of the Caroline Islands archipelago.
The rich cultural heritage Hosono brings to her classroom at Garapan Elementary School
bridges the centuries-old migratory move of her ancestors and the more recent journeys of some of her students’ families.
In addition to her CHamoru and Carolinian students, her classroom has or has had students from Filipino, Chinese Russian, Korean, and Micronesian families, just to name some. The students’ diversity reflects how the island of Saipan has evolved as its economy needed investments and workers from foreign lands over the recent few decades.
“I enjoy the diversity because at the end of the day, I know that what I have taught would be shared not only within the indigenous people but the other ethnicities that have made our home – their home,” Hosono said.
While Hosono sounds upbeat as a classroom teacher, she also went through some rough times.
Her grief over losing a son due to an illness, at the age of 25, made her pursuit of academic growth almost impossible to carry on. And then she and the rest of the members of her entire family were struck by COVID-19 during the pandemic’s critical phase.
And there was the pressure she faced as deadlines for her bachelor’s degree program loomed.
Hosono reached her breaking point: She wrote to her UOG educators that she was withdrawing from the program.
But the UOG educators who were part of Hosono’s academic program were not giving up on her.
“They believe that I can do it,” Hosono said. “They became my mentors.”
As the date to receive her diploma is just days away, she expressed immense gratitude to her professors at UOG.
“I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to all my instructors that believed and
mentored me back into this journey in obtaining my Bachelor of Arts in CHamoru Studies
– especially Dr. Clare Camacho and Dr. Kisha Borja-Quichocho. I am forever grateful!”
“Si yu’us ma’ase and ghillisou!” Hosono said, expressing thank you in CHamoru and Carolinian, respectively.