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REL Pacific

Why Do Student Names Matter?


Naming and spelling conventions for students with families from the Freely Associated States of the Pacific—the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau—may vary from Anglo-American expectations of first, middle, and last names. Because nicknames or family names are commonly used over legal names, and official documents might reflect different names or spellings, this can lead to miscommunication or inconsistent data tracking. All names a student goes by are important because their names may reflect whom they were raised by, where they are from, their family's clan, or their relationships within their communities.

This infographic provides information on naming conventions and familial relationships of students whose families are from the FAS. The purpose of this infographic is to support educators and school registrars in understanding some of the nuances and context around names and family relationships that they may encounter when registering new students or communicating with parents or guardians. The infographic also provides culturally responsive strategies for educators to better support students by recognizing and honoring students' names.


We are grateful for the community members, organizations, and REL Pacific project team based across the Pacific region and the continental United States who provided input and feedback in the development of this infographic.

Content contributors and reviewers:
  • Ms. Shaila Abdullah, creative director and owner, My House of Design
  • Ms. Darienne Dey, research associate, REL Pacific
  • Mr. Dominic Fanasog, professional development coordinator, Yap Department of Education
  • Dr. Katie Gao, managing researcher, REL Pacific
  • Ms. Marlynn Halbert, administrative officer, Federated States of Micronesia Department of Education
  • Ms. Carinis Jerry, program director, Marshallese Education Initiative
  • Mr. Wilson Kephas, consultant, REL Pacific
  • Dr. Theresa Koroivulaono, education consultant, emmanED
  • Ms. Emeliana J. Musrasrik-Carl, director of court administration, Federated States of Micronesia Supreme Court
  • Dr. Emerson Odango, director, Region 18 Comprehensive Center
  • Ms. Natasha Saelua, researcher, REL Pacific
  • Mr. Chasmon Tarimel, school counselor, Puyallup School District
  • Ms. Meagan Taylor, managing consultatnt, REL Pacific
  • Ms. Elsei Tellei, artist, Tiuladokow Artwork
  • Ms. Magaria Tellei, chief of curriculum and instructional materials development, Palau Ministry of Education
  • Dr. Melly Wilson, director, Region 19 Comprehensive Center
Contact for more information:
  • Dr. Katie Gao, REL Pacific (

References Used in the Creation of the Infographic

Greenberg Motamedi, J., Jaffery, Z., Hagen, A., & Yoon, S. Y. (2017). Getting it right: Reference guides for registering students with non-English names, 2nd edition. (REL 2016–158 v2). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Northwest. Retrieved from

Heine, H. (2002). Culturally responsive schools for Micronesian immigrant students. Pacific Resources for Education and Learning: Honolulu, HI. Retrieved from

Marcus, N., Adger, C. T., & Arteagoitia, I. (2007). Registering students from language backgrounds other than English (Issues & Answers Report, REL 2007–No. 025). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Appalachia. Retrieved from

Mayfield, V. M., & Garrison-Wade, D. (2015). Culturally Responsive Practices as Whole School Reform. Journal of Instructional Pedagogies 16(1), 1–17.

Peterson, B., Gunn, A., Brice, A., & Alley, K. (2015). Exploring names and identity through multicultural literature in K-8 classrooms. Multicultural Perspectives, 17(1), 39–45.

Cite This Infographic

REL Pacific. (2021). Why do student names matter? [Infographic]. Getting to Know Pacific Island Students from the Freely Associated States Infographic Series. Institute of Education Sciences. pacific/student-series/pacific-student-infographic-2.asp