Director talks cultural understanding and advice for Asian-American parents

It is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (APAHM)! As JEI Learning Center is all about diversity and inclusivity, we reached out to one of our Directors to learn more about all that she has done to bring greater awareness to the Asian-American experience.

Director Jianping Schoolman has been an advocate for cultural awareness, particularly regarding Asian Americans, for most of her life. She earned herself a Master’s in Language Education and Cross-Cultural Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, then proceeded to teach linguistics and culture courses there and at Stony Brook University. She has also been an active member of the Asian-American community outside formal education.  

She explained to me that one of the things she does is judge the annual Social Harmony Writing Contest, which asks middle and high school students to open up about their own stories and experiences for the purpose of cultural understanding and social harmony.  “Just before you called me, I finished grading the essays for the high school section,” Jianping told me excitedly. She also personally hands out the awards.

Even before her involvement with the writing contest, however, Jianping put in a lot of effort to raise awareness about the Asian-American culture. She told us, “It’s in my blood. I am so into helping or creating an appreciation for Asian Americans, especially because I am Asian American myself.”

She went over her history as an advocate, explaining that it all started in 1996:

In Philadelphia, I worked for Asian American United and was the co-director for the youth leadership camp for kids from Chinatown. From 1997 to 2002, I was at the International House Philadelphia to promote internationalism and Asian-American activities. During those five years, I worked at University of Pennsylvania, where I interviewed about 100 Asian-American students regarding their paths and identities. This inspired me to educate kids and parents on cultural awareness and celebrations. In 2002, I started working as assistant to the director at an Asian-American culture center called Wang Center at Stony Brook University.

At Stony Brook University, she taught language, linguistics, literature, and cross-cultural communication on the side. She also participated in cultural programs, inviting people from other countries, like India, China, South Korea, and Japan, to do performances at the center and raise awareness about the different cultures.

Her passion even seeps into her duties as the director of her own JEI Learning Center. She revealed that most of her students are Asian American. While this means interacting with the students, she admitted,  

I spend half my time talking to the parents based on my experience [as an Asian American]. I want parents to give their own kids, Asian-American kids, more freedom to explore their own interests, their own passions, rather than being a stereotypical Asian American who just studies, studies, studies without caring too much for their own community or anything else but their grades. That’s something I’m very proud of and very good at promoting.

There is no doubt that Jianping will continue to tirelessly support the Asian American community, even after a busy May! Her passion for educating others on culture and tradition is an admirable quality that makes JEI Learning Center proud to have her on our team.

The Social Harmony Writing Contest may be done for this year, but you can always keep an eye out for next year, as well as stay tuned for JEI’s own annual essay contest in the fall! In preparation, check out our Reading & Writing program.