Laura Angel Guzman knows that ISLAND PACIFIC ACADEMY is a special learning place where, with the right mind and heart, great things can happen. Guzman joined IPA on June 27, 2005 as the Secondary Spanish teacher, where she has continued for the past 15 years. She is one of seven current IPA faculty and staff members who are celebrating their 15th year of service.
Guzman certainly has the right mind and heart and she has made great things happen. Not long after joining IPA, she started a Pen Pals Program with IPA’s sister school in Mexico, Instituto Thomas Jefferson (ITJ), Campus Queretaro, in which students in her Spanish classes could gain friendships, cultural understanding, and practice in the language by corresponding with students at ITJ. That partnership with ITJ is now in its 13th year, and the Pen Pals Program has evolved into IPA’s International Cultural and Educational Program, an annual student exchange between IPA and ITJ students.
“One of my proudest moments was when we were finally able to host the first group of exchange students from ITJ. This was like a dream come true, and it took five years to make this happen,” shares Guzman. “Another proud moment was when I took the first IPA Student Ambassador Delegation to visit ITJ in Queretaro. This was a large group with 12 students and five mothers, a great adventure.”
The relationship with ITJ has become a strong virtual learning partnership between middle and high school students in Hawai’i and Mexico. Students at both schools have discovered things they didn’t know about each other’s country, culture, and custom, and have become more knowledgeable and empathic global citizens. It has been rewarding for Guzman to see the impact it has had on her students.
“I have seen 12 different groups of exchange students become lifetime friends with their host students and host families from both schools,” she shares.
Throughout her 15 years, there have been many memorable moments for Guzman, and one that really stands out for her was commencement day for IPA’s first graduating class of 2010.
“I remember being a big day for everyone, because these were the first 8th graders that we prepared for 5 years to graduate from high school,” she recalls. “For me, it was one of the most memorable moments in IPA’s history.”
Even more personal for Guzman, was the graduation of her son, Abraham, in 2016.
“Personally, this was a great day because I had the privilege to see Abraham growing at IPA from 6th grade to 12th grade. I am so thankful to have had this opportunity to have my son getting his education where I teach,” says Guzman.
Like all faculty members, Guzman gives her time to students even outside of the classroom and has shared her passion for tennis as IPA’s head coach for the girls’ and boys’ tennis teams for many years. At a school where students come first, she helps to develop the whole student.
“IPA is a home for our students, where we nurture and polish the special talents that each student comes with and inspire them to accomplish their dreams,” says Guzman. “We are a big ‘ohana, where we take care of everyone – students, families, teachers, and staff.”
Guzman has been inspired over her past 15 years at IPA by the hearts of the students and families.
“I have been blessed with the students that I have taught and the support that I have received from so many families in so many different activities – classroom activities, tennis, cultural events, exchange programs, and hosting students,” she reflects. “In addition, knowing that I have always counted with great support from the administration and my colleagues and staff with so many ideas and projects. I am very thankful for being part of IPA! Muchas gracias por mis 15!”