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Voices from the Region: A Conversation with REL Pacific's Locally Based Consultant in Guam

REL Pacific
Laura Ostrow
June 18, 2019

“All of us in the region are able to learn from one another when locally based consultants get together to meet and share important information. We can see what is being done in other locations, learn from them, and in turn, share what is happening here on Guam.” —Roberta Abaday, REL Pacific locally based consultant, Guam

REL Pacific Research Associate Erin D'Amelio, LBC Roberta Abaday, and Communications Manager Kirsten Miller at the 2019 Insular Areas and Palau Technical Assistance Meeting in Washington, D.C.

Left to right: REL Pacific Research Associate Erin D'Amelio, LBC Roberta Abaday, and Communications Manager Kirsten Miller at the 2019 Insular Areas and Palau Technical Assistance Meeting in Washington, D.C.

REL Pacific staff recently had the chance to catch up with Roberta Abaday,* our locally based consultant (LBC) in Guam, one of the seven jurisdictions in REL Pacific's service region. Roberta updated us on all of the current happenings and important work being done by educators on Guam. Below is our conversation with Roberta:

REL Pacific: Could you describe your role as a locally based consultant?

Roberta: As an LBC, I help to organize and run various meetings, invite attendees, act as secretary, and send out the minutes after the meetings. In the current contract cycle, I have been organizing meetings held in Guam in conjunction with REL Pacific staff and enabling meetings between REL Pacific and various entities on-island. In October, I helped to organize the REL Pacific governing board meeting, which was held right here on Guam. In addition, I keep track of information that is circulating in the news that deals with education and topics of interest to REL Pacific and share it!

REL Pacific: Could you tell us about some recent activities you have been involved in in the field?

Roberta: Through my role as an LBC for REL Pacific I have been able to attend meetings with the Superintendent of Education here on Guam and the President of Guam Community College. Through my own independent work, I have also been meeting with the Dean and one of the professors at the School of Education at the University of Guam.

Through collaborative work with REL Pacific, the University is just in the beginning stages of research that examine Praxis [a teacher pre-service assessment] test results to conclude how to better prepare prospective teachers to take and pass the test. We are examining Praxis results, looking at who took part in the test, their achievement levels, and interviewing them about their preparation. I am helping to connect our stakeholders in Guam with contacts at REL Pacific to facilitate communication for work on the current research study.

REL Pacific: What are some of the current needs and priority areas that you see through your work on Guam?

Roberta: At the University of Guam right now, we are examining the preparation of teachers coming into the university and working to help new teacher recruits pass the Praxis exam. One of the issues we are addressing is that within the region, there can sometimes be a lack of the English and math skills needed to take and pass the Praxis I exam.

To address this, university staff are looking at possible solutions, including revising preparation courses, changing the time of the test, etc. University faculty are speaking directly to students to gather information on what might be the most helpful. The university is doing needs sensing by soliciting input from and involving the UOG community in writing their strategic plan.

In addition to the work REL Pacific supports, Guam Community College (GCC) is currently doing a lot of independent work regarding implementation of dual-credit courses, much of which is being informed by previous studies done by REL Pacific in other jurisdictions. This work includes altering some of the admission requirements for college in order to allow high school students to go directly into credit-bearing classes, and waiving placement tests in order to remove some of the barriers that students may face.

In addition, the Guam Superintendent of Education is very interested in encouraging teachers to take a larger role in staff development and mentoring of other teachers.

REL Pacific: Tell us something we don't know about our partners on Guam.

Roberta: A lot of stakeholders on the island right now, such as GCC, are moving forward by doing innovative work at the grassroots level on their own, while addressing needs that have been identified. People are starting to utilize their own resources on island to figure out next steps and how they can best support students. For example, the GDOE has created career academies for high school students to give them courses directly related to a specific career, some in conjunction with GCC. Students who are in the high school GCC program are able to receive credit from the college for completing the high school programs. In order to address the difficulties students may face in these courses, GDOE has started a pre-AP program in middle schools to provide better preparation for the high school courses.

REL Pacific: Are there any holidays or events coming up on Guam?

Roberta: Right now, we are just reaching the end of our school year, and graduations are coming up fast. We have also recently held an island fair where other islanders can come on-island and bring in goods for sale.

In 2020, we are looking forward to hosting the Pacific Educational Conference as well! Our “Teachers of the Year” along with others from the Pacific Region, will be presenting on various education strategies at the event.

We are so thankful for Roberta for giving her time to let us know a bit more about the work underway on Guam and are looking forward to staying updated!

LBC Bio

* Roberta Abaday is a retired teacher of 37 years' experience. She is currently teaching at the University of Guam School of Education and is a commissioner for educator certification in Guam. She was involved in the development of REL Pacific's Toolkit of Resources for Engaging Families and the Community as Partners in Education and has presented workshops on the Toolkit within Guam. In addition, she has presented teacher professional development workshops in Belau, CNMI, Chuuk, and Guam, and has evaluated schools throughout the Pacific region for WASC accreditation.