May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month and we want to highlight four notable AAPI figures in education this month who have influenced our past, build our present, and inspire our future. These figures played integral roles in advancing the rights and opportunities for individuals of Asian and Pacific Islander descent in the realm of education, and their work continues to impact students and educators alike today.
Patsy Mink was an attorney and politician from Hawaii and was the first Asian American woman elected to the US Congress in 1964. She played an instrumental role in legislations to reform US education, including the Early Childhood Education Act and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
Hanseul Kang is the assistant dean at Yale School of Management and she served as the District of Columbia State Superintendent of Education from 2015-2019. She led D.C.’s state education agency, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), which serves over 90,000 students in public schools across more than 60 local education agencies and made major strides in student achievement outcomes.
Ahnna Smith is currently the Executive Director for the D.C. Workforce Investment Council and used to serve as the Interim Deputy Mayor and Chief of Staff in the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education, overseeing D.C.’s education agencies. Ahnna also served in the Obama Administration as the Chief of Staff for the Office of Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education and served as the Executive Director of Teach For America in the Washington, DC region, where she managed the staff and operations that trained and supported more than 250 teachers in DC and Prince George’s County, Maryland.
Tony DelaRosa is an award winning Filipino American Anti-Bias & Anti-Racist Educator, Executive Leadership Coach, Motivational Speaker, Spoken Word Poet, Racial Equity Strategist, and Writer. After receiving a BA in Asian Studies and a M.Ed with a focus on Arts Education and Non-Profit Management, he is now pursuing a PhD in Education Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin Madison as an Education Graduate Research Scholar. He co-founded NYC’s first Asian American teacher support, development, and retention initiative called AATEND under NYC Men Teach, the NYC DOE, and Office of the Mayor. He served as a Director of Leadership Development at Teach for America coaching teachers and leading DEI strategy. He is currently writing a book called “Teaching the Invisible Race,” which will provide practical ways on embodying a pro-Asian American lens, while combating anti-Asian American violence, racism, and hate for K-12 educators.
These four figures represent only a small selection of the many notable AAPI individuals who have worked to advance the cause of education, and their contributions should be celebrated and remembered during this special month. Let us honor their legacy by continuing to fight for a more equitable and inclusive world, both within our schools and beyond. Let us know in the comments how you’re celebrating AAPIHM and any additional notable figures we should recognize.