Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month is a United States event celebrated annually from May 1st to 31st. During and beyond this month of celebration, Americans – and especially educators – are encouraged to uplift, explore, and amplify the voices and stories of Americans whose roots lie across the Asian continent and the Pacific Islands.
Art educator Jenny Chen told Outschool that one of her favorite things about teaching virtually is the opportunity to connect with diverse students across the globe, including those who share her Asian heritage.
“During the two years I have taught on the platform, I have had the privilege to work with learners worldwide. I love meeting learners who live on the other side of the world and yet have shared heritage with me. I remember one class where I had learners in the U.S., Singapore, and China, and I could hear their families speaking Mandarin in the background. It was an incredibly heartwarming experience.”
Educators on Outschool are empowered to equip themselves with the tools to build an inclusive online classroom that creates the same heartwarming, empowering, and inspiring experience for all kids and teens, including AAPI learners.
Why AAPI Heritage Month takes place in May
In 1977, Capitol Hill staffer Jeanie Jew saw a gap in America’s officially-recognized heritage celebrations – specifically a lack of acknowledgment of her own Asian American community.
Jeanie’s great-grandfather, M.Y. Lee, was a Chinese immigrant who helped build the transcontinental railroad in the mid-19th century. The first of its kind, this railroad stretched across America from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, and its completion on May 10th, 1869 forever changed how people traded, traveled, and lived in the United States. Asian immigrants (predominantly from China) performed most of the labor to complete the railroad, working in dangerous conditions for minimal pay.
The anniversaries of both this incredible contribution to American history and the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the U.S. on May 7th, 1843, inspired the decision to ask Congress to designate May as an official celebration of AAPI heritage.
Jeanie collaborated with Rep. Frank Horton to introduce legislation establishing a national “heritage week” that celebrated the contributions of Asian & Pacific Islander immigrants and their families to the history and culture of America. With support from several other representatives and senators, Congress passed the resolution and later extended the holiday to last for the entire month of May.
Teaching AAPI history & culture
Whether your Outschool classes are on math, fashion design, or poetry – look for ways to include multiple perspectives in what you teach. Are AAPI viewpoints and stories included in your history lesson? Could an Asian American author inspire your next class writing assignment? What about watching a favorite film from Asia or the Pacific Islands at your movie club meeting? There are thousands of ways that you can help AAPI learners feel seen and heard in your classes while empowering all learners to appreciate and understand each other’s stories. You just have to look for them.
Of course, teaching with diverse sources, stories, and materials shouldn’t be relegated to specific times of the year. Educators who teach any subject can stand for all learners by intentionally:
- Choosing classroom resources created by members of the AAPI community
- Seeking out stories of AAPI immigrants and their families that may often be overlooked
- Amplifying AAPI voices alongside those from other backgrounds
- Empowering all learners to share their experiences, thoughts, and ideas in class
Check out some of these professional, free resources on AAPI history and heritage for virtual educators to get a head start. Make sure you’re prepared to present an anti-bias and culturally inclusive curriculum by checking out these courses on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging in the Learning Center.
AAPI resources for online teachers
The Asian American Education Project – Lesson Plans & Curriculum
The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month – Resources For Teachers
Learning for Justice – Elementary to Middle School Books for the Classroom
Learning for Justice – Teaching AAPI Heritage Webinar Recording
PBS Learning Media – “Asian Americans” Documentary, Video Clips, & Lesson Plans
Facing History – Teacher Resources
National Education Association – K-12 AAPI Heritage Lesson Plans