“Good teachers never quit being eager students.”
That could well be the motto for Jennifer Cubangbang, a teacher at Kodiak Christian School.
Whether she’s attending church, creating a website or teaching her students, she continues to learn.
Cubangbang teaches computer skills to 94 elementary and middle school students in the KCS Delta school program and preschool, a small group consisting mostly of 3-year-olds.
She must find ways in which subjects such as language, math and Bible are comprehensible for these little ones.
This is the age at which they learn to identify the names for objects around them.
“They’re studying colors, the weather, basic observations,” Cubangbang said.
Cubangbang leads them through early milestones such as climbing, picking things up with two fingers, learning left and right.
Cubangbang has joyfully learned that the age of making fresh, new discoveries is never over.
“My Christian faith is being renewed by seeing a childlike faith in the students,” she said. “I don’t want to be stagnant, but mature. I want to mature professionally and in my faith.”
Cubangbang’s long-term goal is to be commissioner of education in Saipan, where she grew up.
“I have about $70,000 worth of a PhD to finish. I want to stay in the education arena.”
Saipan is the largest island of the United States Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI) in the Pacific Asia region.
Her parents, who came from the Philippines, migrated to Saipan with $20 to their name. They started out as contract workers and ended up owning several businesses, including a construction company, an auto shop, a beauty shop, dress shop, an import and export business, and a real estate agency.
When Cubangbang was 6 years old they enrolled her in a Christian school because of its reputation for academic excellence and Christ-centered teaching. She graduated from high school a year early as one of the top students in a class.
She attended school in Hawaii on a Pacific Asian scholarship from the University of Hawaii.
Making good on a childhood aspiration to study law, Cubangbang majored in criminal justice. But she switched her focus to education.
Within three years Cubangbang achieved a bachelor’s degree. After spending several years in Saipan, she returned to Hawaii to pursue a master’s degree in education. A year later she became a United States citizen.
While in Hawaii she met her husband, Angel Cubangbang — also of Philippine descent — who had achieved a degree in medical office administration. Later he became a merchant mariner.
In Saipan Cubangbang was employed at a public high school for three years. She taught business science and computer technology to 500 students.
“Anything that dealt with a computer, I was that person.”
Last summer the Cubangbangs moved to Kodiak to be near Angel’s mother, Marina Cubangbang, who had moved here 11 years ago from Hawaii.
Like many highly qualified people from other countries, Cubangbang was not able to find a job for which she was trained. The same was true for her husband.
She believes that finding a position at the KCS was an answer to prayer.
She became aware of an employment opportunity while looking for a school for the Cubangbangs’ daughter, Jewel. At the time KCS was looking for a physical education teacher.
Cubangbang sent her resume and was later hired; however, not as a PE teacher, but a pre-school teacher and computer specialist.
Cubangbang said teaching at KCS has fulfilled her wish to be employed in an environment where she loves going to work.
“Everyone is encouraging, welcoming.”
Cubangbang’s love of learning has led her into artistic and humanitarian projects. She enjoys photography, web designing and jewelry making.
Cubangbang is involved in many causes designed to help the people of Saipan. Even though she can’t buy land because of her status as the child of immigrants, she wants to make sure that the Saipan Natives can keep their land and revitalize their economy.
Businesses are leaving because of restrictions and taxes.
The tourism-driven economy has been dwindling, she said.
“Japan Airlines pulled out. Korean Airlines came in, helping our economy. They bought two of bigger hotels.
“I see people leaving the island. The population used to be 60,000. Now it’s down to 35,000.”
Her concern prompted her to create a nonprofit organization to help the islanders. The title of the nonprofit is Being the Change that CNMI Needs.
Recently, she organized a fundraiser to assist those hurt by a government shut-down.
“For the first time in history, the government in Saipan failed to pass the budget bill. Because of the government shutdown more than 1,000 people have jobs in limbo.
“People aren’t getting paid. Some families won’t be able to pay the rent. Our governor declared a state of emergency.”
Cubangbang was inspired to get involved with social issues from a diverse group of people, she said. They include Helen Keller (one of her favorite people), Mahatma Ghandi, an advocate of non-violence, and a pastor in Hawaii who inspired his congregation to be a catalyst for positive change.
“Change is the most constant thing in our lives,” she said. “You need change to grow.
“I don’t want to live life the same way. I want to be renewed, I want to grow.”