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Need for teachers in Guam grew after WWII

In the years following the end of World War II, Guam became a new military stronghold in the Pacific, leading to a massive increase of US military troops and their dependents on the island. The increase in military dependents, coupled with a rise in local birth rates, caused an increase in student population. As a result, the Naval administration began its reconstruction of the local education system with the ability to accommodate the large school population.

The island of Guam was first faced with the dual challenge of getting these schools accredited and staffing them with teachers. Accreditation was an especially important factor as it would allow students from Guam to apply to US mainland universities and colleges. 

At this point, the island lacked the necessary number of local teachers to take on the new military dependent and local students whose education had been interrupted as a result of the war. In 1946, the Adelup Point Normal School was established with the express purpose of providing college courses to high school graduates interested in entering careers in education. In the first year, 20 students applied to the Normal School. However, enrollment dropped in the following year, leading to the school’s closure. The University of Hawai’i was then contracted by the Guam Department of Education to facilitate summer sessions in 1946, 1947, and 1948 to bring these college teaching courses to the island. Even so, it wasn’t until 1950 that the first locally trained teachers were employed on the island. New directives were then put in place by the Naval administration to seek out qualified military dependents to serve as teachers and recruit civilians from the US mainland as contract teachers. 

Recruiting military dependent and contract teachers

The earliest form of contract teacher recruitment came in the form of printed inserts placed in various newspapers and publications across the nation, promoting the allure of teaching on an island paradise like Guam. These inserts advertised images of the island’s beaches and benefits offered to applicants. Individuals who expressed interest were directed to contact the island’s Department of Education to inquire about the position and submit applications for the contract. The only necessary requirement to apply for these contracts was a bachelor’s degree. The hiring of “qualified” teachers was essential to ensure that the schools on Guam could become accredited. 

As island leaders became more involved with the federal department upon the passing of the Organic Act of Guam, staff from the Guam Department of Education were sent to the mainland to recruit teachers at national hiring conventions. Here, recruiters could answer specific questions pertinent to the job and the island in general. This ranged from questions about the tropical environment to the demographic-specific challenges faced by teachers. It was at these conventions that recruiters could interview applicants on the spot, accept applications, and offer positions.

In a statistical report from the Guam Department of Education, by 1965, recruiters received 2,109 inquiries and 504 official applications for teaching contracts. And in just five years, that number rose to 4,354 inquiries and 870 official application submissions. 

Once accepted, teachers were subject to rigorous background checks prior to entering the island. During this time, a strict Naval security entry clearance was mandatory for people visiting and passing through Guam. This included an application for fingerprint clearance as well as personal interviews of the contract teacher and their dependents by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This practice continued for off-island hires even after the lifting of the mandated security clearance in 1962. 

Benefits only offered to contract teachers

Once approved, teachers were issued a contract, varying in duration, that could be continually renewed at the end of their contract term. In order to encourage teacher hires from off-island, contract teachers were given a number of benefits not shared by local teachers such as travel stipends, free housing, and a higher salary. 

After proper paperwork and background checks were completed, contract teachers were mailed first class airfare tickets to Guam from their airport of choice. This airfare was subsidized by local government funds and covered the cost of relocating the entire family of the teacher, their baggage, and one vehicle to the island for personal use. In addition teachers were allowed a roundtrip ticket to their hometown or other destination of equal value every two years. Teachers could opt to downgrade from the standard first class seating to economy class seating in their initial relocation. The difference in cost could then be converted to credit for future travel. 

Upon arrival on the island, contract teachers were assigned a sponsor to meet them at the airport. These sponsors were usually veteran contract teachers who taught at the same school they were assigned to. They acted as mentors, tasked with showing new contract teachers around the island, introducing them to locals they had befriended, assisting them in transitioning to the island culture, and helping them get settled in their new residences. 

Contract teachers were given special residences that were erected near the school they were assigned. These residences were either small homes or apartment buildings and were typically built by the company that built the school it was near. Rent for these houses were subsidized by local funds. Many of these buildings are still visible today near the schools established in the post-war era. 

One of the most controversial benefits received by both contract teachers and military dependent teachers came in the form of a territorial pay differential (TPD). In 1948, the rate of a military dependent teacher was about 26 percent and a contract teacher was about 57 percent higher than that of local hires. The inconsistency in pay became a large point of contention among locally hired teachers, especially since this wage disparity was continued even as more local teachers were receiving college degrees that were equivalent to their off-island colleagues.

Growth and decline of contract teachers

By 1950, the island school system had a total of 45 contract employees. Over the next 10 years, a more aggressive outreach campaign was taken. This, coupled with the numerous benefits available for both military dependents and contract teachers led to a massive increase in teacher populations. 

By 1960, the total teacher population numbered at 585 with military dependent teachers making up the lowest grouping of teachers at 129, contract teachers with the second lowest at 149, and Guam resident teachers the highest with 269. In just 10 years, that ratio of teachers’ percentages in the three teacher groupings changed dramatically. Guam resident teachers were now the lowest grouping with 320, military dependent teachers the second with 343, and contract teachers the new highest with 512. Over this 10 year time period, with the exception of 1962, more than 50 percent of teachers opted for a renewal of their contract. 

Funding for the recruiting system and the benefits of contract teachers was sourced directly from the Government of Guam despite assurance that compensation for the additional costs came from the US Department of the Interior. The cost to continue this system became the subject of much civil debate and was covered extensively in the Guam Times Weekly. In 1976, the 13th Guam Legislature passed Public Law 13-144, ending the disparity in wages.

As the teaching benefits for contract and local teachers became more equal, many opted not to renew. For years after, recruitment of contract teachers continued. Due to the decline in benefits that once attracted so many in the decades prior, the number of application for contracts steadily declined. However, by this time, the University of Guam was prepared to meet the needs of a growing population interested in pursuing a career in education, thus eliminating the reliance on seeking out contract teachers to staff the island’s schools. 

By Lazaro Quinata

For further reading

Auyong, Marie Ada. “Education After WWII.” In Guampedia, last modified 2 March 2022.

Cunningham, Lawrence. “Guam Contract Hiring.” Interview by Lazaro Quinata. Modern Guam Rises from Destruction of War: 1945-1970, Guampedia. Agat, Guam, 18 May 2021. Audio, 56:03.

Guam Department of Education. “Guidance Newsletter – Department of Education Government of Guam.” 1958.

Underwood, Robert A. “American Education and the Acculturation of the Chamorros of Guam.” EdD diss., University of Southern California, 1987.

US Naval Government of Guam. Quarterly Reports. Hagåtña: Naval Government of Guam, 1946-1949.

US Navy Department. Advisory Committee on Education for Guam and the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. Honolulu: NoD, 1949.

US Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. US Navy Report on Guam, 1899-1950. Washington, DC: OPNAV, 1951.