Honoring and Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Holly Spinelli, May 2023

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. The AAPI community has a rich and complex history in the United States, and what better way to honor and celebrate the variety of voices and stories than including them in our professional learning and classroom spaces?!


While books are an integral part of our learning and AAPI storytelling, there are a variety of ways to ensure that AAPI people are represented in our classrooms and learning communities. One of my dear colleagues, who also happens to be my co-teacher for the junior-level courses we teach, has introduced me to a number of engaging, informative, and enlightening podcasts this school year. While listening to one of the podcasts she recommended, I stumbled upon a group called The Asian American Podcasters Association. My search landed on their enormous list of AAPI created podcasts from which listeners can choose. Thankfully, they published a link with 31 selected podcasts for you to begin your listening journey. You can enjoy listening to one episode from a new podcast each day of AAPI Heritage month. Find out what stories will resonate with you, your students, and your professional learning community.

Television and Film

Who doesn’t love a day in the classroom where everyone gets to watch a story unfold on the screen? This is more than just a rainy day activity. Akruti Babaria, a trained Indian classical dancer who founded the Kulture Khazana to connect families with South Asian stories, wrote an excellent article that includes a list of family-friendly Asian American films and television shows to watch with children as a way to celebrate and learn more about the AAPI community. If you’re looking to include something by way of a documentary, Kimmy Yam of the NBC Asian America reporting team shares an insightful article about director Debbie Lum’s 2021 documentary, “Try Harder!”, which offers audiences a humanizing look into the working class Asian population of San Francisco’s prestigious Lowell High School. It’s an excellent film to open up dialogue among students and colleagues about stereotypes and academic expectations that our AAPI students often face.

Art and Photography

Images can serve as excellent writing prompts for students to craft journal entries, short stories and poetry. This year, I took an opportunity to include a few images featured in an article posted on My Modern Met and had my seniors create short stories based on the images in the article. The students absolutely loved viewing the images, analyzing them, and creating stories that ranged from deeply dramatic to absurdly humorous. I highly recommend this activity. It’s a wonderful way to introduce students to talented AAPI artists and stories.

No matter which form of storytelling you choose to include in your classroom, it’s important to reiterate that the AAPI community is not a monolith. There is a depth and breadth of AAPI cultures, voices, and stories that certainly have a welcome place in all of our classrooms and educational spaces. We wish you a joyful AAPI Heritage month!

Holly Spinelli is an advocate for equality through anti-racist, anti-bias, and anti-oppressive facilitation within and beyond the classroom. She continues to cultivate community-inspired work as an English teacher at Monroe-Woodbury High School in Central Valley, New York, and as an adjunct instructor in the English Department at SUNY Orange County Community College. She is an Academy for Teachers fellow and served two terms as an active member of the National Council of Teachers of English Committee Against Racism and Bias in the Teaching of English. She is currently an NCTE Open Educational Resources Fellow (2023). She is excited to be part of the NYSEC executive board.

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