Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month 2024: Recognizing AANHPI Leaders in Education

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As Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month comes to a close, Macmillan Learning continues its series that began earlier this year during Black History Month by featuring prominent trailblazers in the field of education from historically marginalized communities. 

The beginnings of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, as we know it today, began in the 1970s as representatives in congress proposed a bill that would proclaim the first week of May as Asian-Pacific Heritage Week. The resolution was signed by President Jimmy Carter in 1978, making that designation official. Thirty-one years later, President Barack Obama signed a proclamation recognizing the entire month of May as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. As of 2021, the month officially changed to include Native Hawaiian through the signing of another proclamation by President Joe Biden. 

Each year, the month of May serves as a time to celebrate and honor the contributions of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders to the fabric of American society. In the realm of education and pedagogy, there have been many remarkable individuals whose pioneering work has left an indelible mark. Here are eight AANHPI trailblazers in education. 

Grace Lee Boggs (1915-2015)

Grace Lee Boggs, a Chinese American philosopher, writer, and activist, emphasized the importance of education in fostering social change. She co-founded Detroit Summer, a multicultural, intergenerational youth program aimed at revitalizing communities through education and activism.

Helen Zia (1952-Present)

Helen Zia, a Chinese American journalist and activist, has been a prominent voice in advocating for Asian American studies programs in schools and universities. Her efforts have helped to broaden the understanding of Asian American history and experiences in educational settings. An outspoken activist for a wide range of causes, Zia has also advocated for both women’s rights and LGBTQ rights, and was a prominent voice during the Civil Rights Movement.

Mamie Tape (1895-1983)

Mamie Tape, a Chinese American woman, played a pivotal role in the landmark case Tape v. Hurley in 1885, which successfully challenged racial segregation in San Francisco schools. Her advocacy laid the groundwork for desegregation efforts in education.

Haunani-Kay Trask (1949-Present) 

Haunani-Kay Trask, a Native Hawaiian scholar and activist, has been a leading voice in advocating for indigenous perspectives in education. Her work highlights the importance of centering indigenous knowledge and experiences in educational curricula. As professor emerita at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, she founded and directed the Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies.

Patsy Mink (1927-2002)

Patsy Mink, a Japanese American politician, was the co-author of Title IX, a landmark legislation that prohibits sex discrimination in education. Her advocacy has had a profound impact on gender equity in schools and universities.

Ronald Takaki (1939-2009)

Born in pre-statehood Hawaii, Ronald Takaki was a Japanese American historian and ethnographer who played a critical role in the development of ethnic studies programs across the United States. His book, "Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans," is a seminal work in the field.

Jim Yong Kim (1959-Present) 

Jim Yong Kim, a Korean American physician and anthropologist, served as the President of Dartmouth College and the World Bank. His work in global health and education has influenced policies and practices worldwide, particularly in improving access to education in developing countries.

Viji Sathy (1972-Present) 

Viji Sathy, an Indian American professor of psychology and neuroscience, is known for her work on inclusive teaching practices. Her research and advocacy promote equitable education by addressing the diverse needs of students in the classroom.