By Evangeline Cafe
Northwest Asian Weekly
If Gloria Ysmael-Adams could be anywhere in the world, it would probably be inside a classroom.
The Philippine-born educator has dedicated her life to mentoring children, teaching ESL and advocating for better schools in the U.S. and abroad. On Dec. 5, the Northwest Asian Weekly will honor her as a Top Contributor to the Asian Community.
“Glo,” as some call her, earned a Master of Education degree from Seattle University before becoming the city’s first Filipino American counselor in 1969. She served as head counselor at Meany Middle School for 30 years, where she was credited with implementing a successful peer-tutoring program and increasing multicultural awareness.
Ysmael-Adams said her life mission has always been to help students succeed.
“I love young people, and I love sharing,” she said. “I love it with a passion.”
However, Ysmael-Adams’s hard work was not confined to the Seattle School District. In 1972, she co-founded the Filipino American Educators of Washington (FAEW). The organization works to empower minority teachers and students through outreach programs, awards and scholarships.
She says the program began when Filipino American educators were few and far between.
“We needed each other,” she said.
“We worked for a lot of things that could be improved, opportunities for both students and staff.”
One of FAEW’s most important events is its annual Celebration of Excellence in Education. It is held in conjunction with the Filipino Community’s Pagdiriwang Festival at the Seattle Center. FAEW recognizes a distinguished educator in the community with its GLORIA award — aptly named after Ysmael-Adams.
During the celebration, FAEW also recognizes the academic achievements of outstanding Filipino American students. It awards book scholarships for high school seniors who are about to begin their college careers.
“I think that excellence is very important, and I think the community should know that we have students graduating year after year,” said Ysmael-Adams.
During the same event, the group also holds a literary-musical contest, in which young students put their creativity on display through essays, musical numbers and dramatic interpretations.
Throughout the year, FAEW works to equip Filipino American families with the tools they need to succeed. It offers parent-teacher conferences to update parents on changes in high school requirements, and it recently launched preparatory classes for students who will take the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL).
“We as educators need to support them — our students,” said Ysmael-Adams.
Ysmael-Adams has also dedicated her career to promoting cross-cultural understanding. She co-founded the Filipino American Exchange Educators’ Program (FAME) in 1989 to facilitate exchange visits of teachers in the U.S. and the Philippines.
In addition to her work in Seattle, Ysmael-Adams continues to nurture schools in her homeland. She has adopted several schools in the Philippines and is deeply involved in programs that provide educational assistance.
As if her long list of achievements in education wasn’t enough, Ysmael-Adams also serves as an adviser to the Bataan-Corregidor Survivors’ Association in Seattle. As a child of a former U.S. veteran who died in 1992, she holds veterans’ rights close to her heart, and she works tirelessly to help Filipino WWII veterans and their families secure long-awaited pension benefits.
The ambitious Filipina has taken the time to put her life lessons on paper. She has published two books, “Characters I Dare Not Forget” and “Glimpses of My Roots,” in which she honors her past and looks to the future.
From the classroom to the real world, Ysmael-Adams has illuminated the lives of people across the globe, and she has clearly excelled in teaching all of us the true meaning of success. ♦
Evangeline Cafe can be reached at email@example.com.