Representation matters

Law passed introducing more Asian American in school curriculum

Representation matters

This school year, Illinois was the first state to pass a law requiring a unit of Asian American history to be implemented in history classes for both elementary and high school history class curriculums (The TEAACH Act).

To teachers, the new law is a pivotal way to allow Asian American communities’ perspectives to be spotlighted and inform students of the challenges the community has faced.

“It’s so important…to understand different perspectives on history because many historical events impact different communities in different ways,” said World Studies teacher Thomas Bochnak. 

Most teachers have not received information about the new law from administration and were informed by outside resources. 

“I received information from some outside organization saying that this was a new law that was signed and here are some resources that are available to you to help incorporate this [into the curriculum],” said Bochnak. “But, besides that, I haven’t received any other communication about it.”

While so far there is no formal communication from the school, teachers are already brainstorming on how to incorporate this history into the curriculum. 

“Right now, my focus is on the Congo and Africa,” said Bochnak. “But then maybe in my third unit–let’s say I’m talking about religions–instead of trying to talk about all of them, maybe I focus on a religion that’s dominant in the Asian American community.”

Jones teachers are recognizing the importance of the new introduction of Asian American history. 

Asian American history has been largely ignored, and I do think that there’s a misperception for many people and terms of the history of Asian Americans,” said AP United States History teacher Cheryl Verhey. “Many people thinking that Asian Americans are “model minorities” and have had easy lives, aren’t aware of both the struggles and achievements of Asian Americans,” said Verhey.

The College Board has been making strides towards inclusivity in school curriculums and highlighting historically underrepresented communities within the Advanced Placement curriculum.

“The College Board is continuously making advances and progress in their curriculum,” said Verhey. “They’re very much focusing on Americans who have historically been underrepresented in history. I not only want to focus on the very rich and robust history of Asian Americans, but I also want to include Asian American authors and primary and secondary sources in order to highlight their voices.”

Overall, Jones teachers value representation and plan to include this new requirement in creative ways.  

“I think that every student in class needs to feel like American history is telling their story and that they’re learning about themselves as they’re sitting in American history class,” said Verhey. “I think that Jones teachers are already doing that, but we can always improve.”