Meet Virginia Nguyen (she/her) and Stacy Yung (she/her), history teachers committed social justice, equity, and anti-racism. Through their organization Educate to Empower, they facilitate Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and anti-racism workshops, and build curriculum about Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) histories. They host workshops, share lesson plans, create resources to empower educators, and more.
Q: What is the story behind the creation and development of the workshops? What can educators look forward to learning from you in the workshops?
As teachers, we have the power to define who an American is. Both of us are Asian American and being Asian American has shaped us as educators in foundational ways. Stacy is a second-generation Chinese American and Virginia, a first-generation daughter of Vietnamese refugees. Growing up, we hardly saw Asian American stories reflected in the K12 curriculum. Like many Asian Americans, we felt invisible. That changed when we went to the University of California Irvine, where we had access to Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) narratives and histories, we joined clubs like the Vietnamese Student Association, and found community with fellow BIPOC classmates. These experiences opened our eyes up to the power of knowing one’s history and we began to understand AAPI histories better. That new understanding shaped our love for history, and teaching history in ways that are inclusive and empowering for all Americans.
We responded to the rise of anti-Asian hate by creating our #STOPAAPIHATE Educator Workshops. Using our participation and reflection-focused approach from our "How to Build an Anti-Racist Classroom Community” series, we developed a two-part #STOPAAPIHATE Educator Workshop series. This workshop centers and models for educators how to teach AAPI histories and stories while also modeling culturally responsive teaching practices.
Part One of the series is an introduction to AAPI history. Using lessons and resources we have used in our classrooms we will identify common AAPI stereotypes and how to center student voices. Participants will leave with teaching resources and identify possible next steps for applying these resources in the classroom.
Part Two centers joy. Using Dr. Gholdy Muhammad’s Historically Responsive Teaching from her book Cultivating Genius: An Equity Framework, we share how to celebrate AAPI heroes and accomplishments. This workshop asks participants to reflect on their curriculum, if and how they include AAPI narratives in their classrooms, and the power of centering AAPI joy. The part of this workshop that excites us the most is the invitation for participants to create lessons that celebrate AAPI communities. Stacy and I share our collection of AAPI heroes and work with participants in creating lessons for their classes. Participants will leave this workshop with new lessons they designed and useful tips on how to use them in the classroom, along with resources that continue to center joy for AAPI experiences and all marginalized communities.
Q: You have found success in gaining support from school administrators to support AAPI communities and building anti-racist classrooms. What was this process like for you, and what considerations would you share with educators looking for strategies to gain support from their administrators?
We will be honest; it has not been an easy journey. This work requires a lot of emotional labor, time, and risk-taking. We are proud to share that through these efforts we have built teacher-led equity teams in our district, found our voices as teacher activists at the district level, and observed positive changes in K12 curriculum. Most importantly, students have heard about our efforts, asked us what they can do to stop AAPI hate, and thanked us for speaking up.
We haven’t achieved success yet. We are still working on it. To get administrator support we have taken multiple steps:
• The first is sharing our own stories and connecting them to national awareness of anti-Asian hate.
• We then focused on centering student voices through anecdotes and looking at our annual climate survey, which all stakeholders, teachers, staff members, parents, and students complete.
• Connecting our story, centering students, and data from the district climate survey is how we found allies at the teacher and administrator level.
The work is not easy, but it is necessary. For that reason, we remain committed to holding our district accountable to its promise of providing every student the best possible education, one that is equitable, inclusive, and prepares our students to face and solve the problems of our modern world.
As Asian American women, the surge in anti-Asian hate left us feeling scared. We felt invisible when our fear and pain were not acknowledged. Our Asian American students expressed the same feelings and anxieties. Our Asian American community needed support and healing. Although it left us vulnerable and exposed, we shared our personal stories of being victims of anti-Asian hate in our local community. Sharing our stories helped people connect what they saw on the news to what the local AAPI community was experiencing. Sharing our lived experiences was our first step in AAPI advocacy.