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Happy Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month!

Association of Texas Professional Educators
Association of Texas Professional Educators

Date Posted: 5/12/2022

The total Asian population in the U.S. is 20 million, and for Native Hawaiians/Other Pacific Islanders (NHPI), that number is 607,010, according to the U.S. Census, and the month of May is about honoring every single one of them. This includes the many Asian and NHPI educators working in Texas public schools.

The idea of having a celebration for Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage began in the 1970s, according to History.com. It originated as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week in 1979. It was not until 1992 when Congress expanded the observance to the entire month of May that it was named Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. In 2009, it was renamed to Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

From 2000 to 2019, Asian Americans were the fastest-growing population among racial/ethnic groups, according to a Pew Research Center report, increasing by 81%. NHPIs were third in population growth with a 61% increase. Pew also projects the Asian American population will increase to over 35 million by 2060.

In the education sector, 2.1% of public-school teachers are Asian and 0.9% of public-school principals ware Asian, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The public-school percentage for NHPI are 0.2% of public-school teachers and 0.2% of public school principals.

AAPI Data shows that the majority of the AAPI population stated education was either an extremely important or very important issue in an Asian American Voter Survey in 2020.

The number of Asian teachers in Texas has been steadily climbing as well since the 2015-16 academic year, according to data provided by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). The number of Pacific Islander teachers hit a peak from 2016-17 to 2017-18, before seeing a steady decrease since then.

Much like the rise in populations, representation for Asian American and Pacific Islanders across different media has also increased. For example, the film Parasite was the first non-English language film to win an Oscar for Best Picture. Although representation has been on the rise, throughout history AAPIs have had a great contribution to media and culture. Kintaro Hayakawa, or Sessue Hayakawa, was one of the highest-paid actors in 1910 and was a Japanese immigrant. In poetry, many young and old know of probably one of the most popular forms of poetry, Haiku, which has maintained its popularity since the Tokugawa period starting in 1603, according to the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Other cultural impacts that stem from AAPI are holidays such as the Lunar New Year. Music is also diverse across cultures, and Hawaiian music has been especially influential throughout history. Check out this page from the Smithsonian about Na Leo Hawai’I, Musics of Hawai’i.

To all of the Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander educators out there, thank you from ATPE for all that you do! Here is a teaching guide from the National Endowment for the Humanities to aid you as you teach your students about the importance of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.