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 of students with disabilities.
“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.
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.
Gilbert Mangosong, one of the students 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.
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. (PR)