Dr. Benjamin Santiago recognized as 2021 Guam Teacher of the Year

"Understand that our mission is to teach," Dr. Santiago told PNC. "There are many factors in that mission to teach, but . . . our hearts will always dictate what is right," Dr. Santiago told PNC.

Dr. Benjamin "Benjie" Santiago teachers journalism and cultural dance.

A teacher of journalism and cultural dance, Dr. Benjamin Santiago was recognized as the 2021 Guam Teacher of the Year.

Every year, the Guam Department of Education (GDOE) and the Foundation for Public Education host a recognition ceremony for professional educators to be named Guam’s Teacher of the Year. Several teachers are nominated through multiple different factors including their accomplishments, contributions, and commitment to the profession.

Loading the player...

In recent years, due to the global pandemic, they were unable to hold any ceremony for those teachers who won during the adaptation years of 2020-2021.

“Dr. Santiago has served as an in-house mentor for new teachers, coordinating cultural events for his school community, and successfully trained a school choir to earn 3 gold medals in a CHamoru language competition,” said Delegate to Congress Michael San Nicolas.

“Further, he is a trailblazing force that has created curricula for cultural arts and dance for all secondary grade levels, introduced a new method to simultaneously teach cultural dance to both face-to-face and online learners during an ongoing global pandemic, and developed a new CHamoru language program with support from local government agencies.

“Most impressive, however, is his personal undertaking to establish deeper understanding and awareness of cultural concepts as an inherent part of Guam’s public education.”

25 years of teaching

Dr. Benjie, as he is lovingly called, has established an extensive teaching career in his 25 years with the GDOE and for the past 15 years, has taught cultural dance and journalism at Agueda I. Johnston Middle School. Along with a trail-blazing career in education, Dr. Benjie encourages and inspires others to live healthy lives as an instructor at a local fitness center.

In an interview with PNC, Dr. Benjie stated that, a teacher is a teacher, and that a teacher would do anything to make a lesson come to life whether it be virtually, face-to-face, or hardcopy model of learning. This is in reflection of how difficult it was for him to adapt to a new model of learning because of the pandemic.

Pandemic years

“There are many different emotions and feelings that go into it because it was a rigorous process–number 1,” said Dr. Santiago. “Number 2: there was that whole year of limbo.

“I think many of us of who were in the program actually felt like we wanted to drop the ball–not because it wasn’t a vital part of our education system, but because of the fact we were inundated with everything COVID. To pick up where we left off and continue on was an exhilarating feeling because it was a marathon.”

Dr. Santiago states that through the pandemic he has felt the different models of learning have made teachers stronger. To really have pushed through the obstacle of COVID and to really understand whether or not they still want to pursue teaching.

Our educational professionals went through tough trials with the switching of models of learning and trying to adapt to all of the safety covid protocols.

He adds that for educational professionals, one should be truthful to oneself and honest. If there’s something you can’t control, don’t try to control it. There are many factors that are not within our control just learn to accept, adapt in a safe way and understand your mission is to teach.