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In the month of May, schools throughout the Bellevue School District celebrated Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, also known as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. Schools affirmed identities and shared the depth and breadth of contributions made by the AAPI community. Through a variety of experiential and academic activities, students and staff took time to reflect on how contributions from individuals from across the span of AAPI cultures have elevated and fundamentally shaped our nation.


The Arts Showcase AAPI Culture


AAPI month kicked off at Stevenson Elementary by engaging students with the work of AAPI authors. The morning began with Stevenson staff who identify as members of the AAPI community sharing an expressive video about their diverse and unique identities. Librarian Jennifer Ching once again helmed a school-wide read-in event and invited district leaders and staff to spend time reading to students. The culturally responsive books available throughout district libraries are a valuable resource for educators and an equal benefit for students. Since 2018, the Bellevue Schools Foundation has helped to provide our schools with culturally responsive books like the ones read during the read-ins, depicting characters that reflect our district’s global culture. These books provide opportunities for students to develop understanding, empathy, compassion and connection. To learn more about this initiative supported by the Bellevue Schools Foundation, watch the Education Connections session devoted to programming, here, and access book recommendations by grade, here.

two Korean women in traditional dress making kimchi

Families celebrated Wilburton’s Festival of Cultures with traditional foods including Korean kimchi (fermented cabbage with spices).


Somerset Elementary also celebrated AAPI authors by welcoming Indian American author, Sheetal Sheth for their Great Authors visit. Ms. Sheth joined students to share about her books Always Anjali and Bravo Anjali, stories that share the experience of celebrating who you are and honoring our differences. Ms. Sheth’s newest book, Making Happy, shares the author’s experience of battling illness and being a parent. Somerset students were inspired and encouraged by the author visit to share their own stories of identity and belonging.

In May, Newport high school was joined by visiting artist Junko Yamamoto. Ms. Yamamoto is currently working with the J. Rinehart Gallery in Seattle where she brings to light the concept of “all is one” and accentuates the interconnectedness of all things through her work. She was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan where she started drawing at the age of three. While oil painting has been her primary medium, she also engages in printmaking and produces mixed media installations, focusing most recently on soft sculpture mobile installations. As a member of the Japanese artist collective Art Beasties, Ms. Yamamoto participated in group exhibitions at the SOIL Gallery and Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. View the images shared from her visit with Newport students here.


Celebrating A Festival of Cultures


faculty stand on stairs holding books they read to students

District leaders and staff joined in to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month by reading books by AAPI authors to students at Stevenson Elementary

Wilburton Elementary students are truly global citizens who speak over 30 home languages. To honor and affirm their unique identities, cultural traditions and heritage, Wilburton families recently held a Festival of Cultures. Families were invited to host a table during the outdoor celebration which represented the countries of Japan, Korea, Pakistan, Indonesia and Vietnam among others.

Students and families shared traditional foods, colorful clothing, art customs and cultural artifacts with the greater community. The festival gave everyone an opportunity to reflect on the commonalities that unite the rich and diverse histories of students. Wilburton Principal, Chhoun Mey, who identifies as Cambodian, was delighted to host the event and grateful for all the families who came to celebrate and support one another.


Celebrating A Festival of Cultures


Wilburton Elementary students are truly global citizens who speak over 30 home languages. To honor and affirm their unique identities, cultural traditions and heritage, Wilburton families recently held a Festival of Cultures. Families were invited to host a table during the outdoor celebration which represented the countries of Japan, Korea, Pakistan, Indonesia and Vietnam among others.

Students and families shared traditional foods, colorful clothing, art customs and cultural artifacts with the greater community. The festival gave everyone an opportunity to reflect on the commonalities that unite the rich and diverse histories of students. Wilburton Principal, Chhoun Mey, who identifies as Cambodian, was delighted to host the event and grateful for all the families who came to celebrate and support one another.


students and families at table with cultural items while person hands out bangles

Caption: Students at the Wilburton Festival of Cultures learned about traditions, tasted foods, and picked up souvenirs along the way.


Culturally Responsive, Historically Accurate Curriculum

This April, Michal Friesen, teacher at Woodridge Elementary School, shared with her third-grade students the lessons she built on the history of Japanese Americans in the Bellevue community. Students learned how Bellevue was once a farming community and hundreds of Japanese families lived, worked and raised their children in the area. Then, an executive order, issued by President Franklin Roosevelt authorized the removal of Japanese Americans into incarceration camps. Ms. Friesen, a historian, created the lessons as a revival of the district “Bellevue Then and Now” curriculum. Learn about the positive impact the lessons have had on students and families in this article from the Seattle Times.


The Bellevue School District acknowledges that we learn, work, live and gather on the Indigenous Land of the Coast Salish peoples, specifically the Duwamish and Snoqualmie Tribes. We thank these caretakers of this land, who have lived and continue to live here, since time immemorial.