Joakim M. Peter, PhD in Special Education Alumnus

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Joakim M. Peter
“… I am always interested in how well special education programs are serving and improving lives of children with disabilities and their parents.”
Hometown:

Chuuk, FSM

Department:

Special Education

Degree:

PhD in Special Education (Exceptionalities)

Where are you working?
I work for Pacific Resources for Educational Learning (PREL), We Are Oceania (WAO).

How did you become interested in special education?
As an individual with severe disability since my teenage years, special education has always been a part of my life, whether I’m fully aware of it or not. As an advocate for individuals with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities, I am always interested in how well special education programs are serving and improving lives of children with disabilities and their parents.

Why did you choose to pursue the PhD in Exceptionalities program?
I am interested in the intersection of research and teaching for culturally diverse populations of families of children with disabilities. New immigrant families often find themselves in a complicated web of issues and problems. I believe that the solution often lies in the same web of culturally defined and driven relationships.

What was the best part of the program for you?
I appreciated working with my cohort mates. Working with the advisors in the committee also helped me tremendously throughout the program.

In what ways do you hope to make a difference using the knowledge you have gained?
One thing I learned from this program – which compliments my lifelong support of family-oriented, culturally-appropriate intervention – is the Family Quality of Life theory. In practice, it is not much different from what I have learned as a cultural studies student and a Pacific Islander. As an organizer and advocate in the migrant community, I have been able to apply this theory while serving multiple populations.

How did the people and the program in the COE help you along your way to becoming a teacher?
They have helped boost my confidence in the field of special education. I was already a lecturer and professor of cultural studies and history, but I was not very comfortable with the nuances of special education and exceptionality. This past summer, I gave a lecture at my old college on the topic of parental involvement in special education. I felt very comfortable and confident in my ability to teach these concepts.

What are your future plans?
I'm planning to split my time between my work as a community advocate and organizer in the Micronesian communities here in Hawai‘i. I'm starting a program at our WAO “one-stop center” for parents of children with disability from the Micronesian migrant groups. I'm already spending two months out of the year back home in Chuuk reorganizing our disability parent groups for the whole nation.

Anything else you would like to share?
I would like to see college courses that work with migrant families from the Micronesian nations that are moving and settling in Hawai‘i. There is a growing number of students, including special needs students, in the schools, but there are not any courses or curricula that focus on teaching our young teacher students on how to better serve the students in the public schools.