Get to Know Miller's AAPI Teachers!

May is AAPI History Month & to celebrate, we will be sharing the stories of some of our amazing teachers.

Check back soon for more stories about your teachers throughout the month!

Ms. Lin

Ms. Lin graduated from MIIS, CA

Ms. Lin as a TCM intern

I came to the U.S. after graduating from college in the Republic of China, which is better known as Taiwan. Coming to America was exciting for me, as I was here to go to graduate school in Monterey, CA, where I met people from all over the world, Americans, Europeans, and other Asians/Pacific Islanders. The school was demanding, yet life was colorful. After grad school, I started my family and settled down in the Bay Area. Raising my kids and living in the so-called “melting pot,” I was immersed in the western culture while exploring my American dream. Working at a computer hardware company, a newspaper, startup websites, having odd jobs at a TV station and a pastry store, I finally found my calling — teaching. Later I was fascinated by traditional Chinese medicine, and who would have guessed that I studied TCM in America, which is, more suitably, a “salad bowl”! Melting pot or salad bowl, the US is a great place to assimilate to the American culture while retaining one’s own. I am really blessed to have such rich and bountiful experiences in the New World.

I grew up in Brookline, MA which is a town next to Boston. I was one of 5 Asians in my grade. We grew up with a strong sense of culture. My parents were community leaders in Boston’s Chinatown, we celebrated Chinese New Year and we had great respect for our elders. One distinct memory for me in school was when I brought Chinese food for lunch from my parent’s restaurant. I remember people staring at it in surprise and asking me what it was. I was so embarrassed. This situation was one of many times where I felt like I didn’t fit in. It is great to be in Cupertino because there is so much representation and many cultures. People eat dumplings or noodles all the time here! I do remind my students that when they go to the outside world, they may unfortunately encounter the demons of racism. I do believe we can make change happen if we keep pushing the issues!

Mrs. Ong

Mrs. Ong in 8th Grade

Mrs. Ong now

Mrs. Shahid

I was born and raised in Houston, Texas. Until middle school, I was one of two Southeast Asians in my grade. In the late 80s and early 90s, there was not much awareness of cultural diversity. I was the only student in my class that did not have blonde or brown hair, blue eyes, a mom that baked chocolate chip cookies, or threw really fabulous birthday parties at roller skating rinks. My parents are Pakistani and moved to America in the late 60s but still continued to hold on to their cultural practices like: wearing shalwar kameez, putting mehndi on our hands,drinking mango lassis, eating biryani, putting coconut oil in our hair, focusing on our academics, and putting family first. A lot of my school lunches and actions were reflective of my cultural practices like: goat meat for lunch, mehndi hands during celebrations, practicing math, and respecting my elders. In school, I remember having to point to Pakistan on the Spring Roller Map for my teachers and peers. They had never heard of the country. They also had never seen shalwar kameez or mehndi. Teachers always asked me if I had a burnt hand when I had my hands painted with mehndi after a weekend celebration. I would go out of my way to keep my hand in my pockets. My name was always mispronounced all the way through college.

When I started high school, I was one out of three girls at our school who wore the hijab. After I started the hijab, I was stereotyped as a foreigner, an oppressed woman, and someone who did not know how to speak English. Teachers and random strangers would ask me when I moved to America, how I knew how to use a cellphone, and didn’t really know what to make of me. A lot of people at school started to treat me differently because I did not fit the social norms of how an American should look. I felt targeted and isolated because I chose to openly practice my religion.

In 2021, I feel so blessed because people are more educated, respectful, and culturally aware of peoples’ overall differences. I feel that my experiences from my childhood really have shaped who I am today and can say that I feel proud to be an American Pakistani Muslim. I hope everyone feels comfortable being who they are and that they feel safe showing it to the world!

Mrs. Shahid in 4th Grade

Mrs. Shahid now

Ms. Niksch

I’m a first-generation immigrant from Japan who grew up right here in the Bay Area. When I first arrived, I couldn’t speak or read English. In fact, I couldn’t even read my own language yet since we had moved right before I was to begin pre-school. Having been so young was an advantage, though, because I absorbed the new language quickly and had no problems in American classrooms by the time I got to kindergarten. The classroom looked very different back then compared to the average Miller classroom now. I was the only Japanese in my grade throughout elementary school, and I believe there were only two or three other Asian students in my whole grade overall.

I did, however, get to make Japanese friends and keep up my language. Unlike most of my friends in American school, I went to school 6 days a week up until my freshman year. Every Saturday (plus classes daily for two full weeks every summer!), I attended the San Francisco Japanese School. This was not a language school where you learned a foreign language; it was actually an extracurricular school, with instruction in all academic subjects, for Japanese nationals. Thanks to my parents, I was able to grow up bilingual as well as bicultural.

Concerning race issues, as a child I stopped bringing Japanese lunches to American school after some kids made rude comments about seaweed being gross. I also had several instances of people making racist remarks during junior high. However, while racism still has a long way to go, especially in the current atmosphere of anti-Asian sentiment, many things have improved. For instance, I never could have imagined decades ago that I would see a non-Japanese student eating onigiri (rice ball) for lunch at school, or that sushi or anime would become so popular.

I am proud of my Japanese heritage, more than I was able to be as a child, and it is due in part to people around the world appreciating what Japanese culture has to offer. There may be setbacks, but I want to believe that the world is making progress in accepting and appreciating differences.

Top: Ms. Niksch as an 8th grade student at Japanese School (more accurately, 2nd year of middle school, since Japanese schools are elementary 6, middle 3, and high school 3 years). Ms. Niksch is the one on the left, second-to-last row.

Bottom: Ms. Niksch as an 8th grade teacher at Miller. Photo is of 80’s Day for Spirit Week, the exact decade Ms. Niksch actually was an 8th grader.

Mr. Yosh

Mr. Yosh's parents Mr. Yosh & his brother

Mr. Yosh & his high school friends

Mr. Yosh & Chewy

I was born and raised in San Jose to a Japanese father and a Mexican, Native American mother. I have one younger brother. My parents never really pushed their culture or beliefs onto my brother or myself and to be honest, I feel like I never really associated with one side or the other. As a family, we really didn’t celebrate our culture. No Obon Festivals or Cinco de Mayo/Dia de los Muertos. I only started going to Obon Festivals when I got older and could drive myself and friends wanted to go. The one thing my parents always taught us was to be kind and respect our elders. Hold the door open for people and say “please” and “thank you.” All that goes a long way.

Food at home and school was a hodgepodge of everything. It included anything from Spam and eggs to McDonald’s Happy Meals. My favorite was my mom’s fried chicken and grandma’s inari. I do remember some of my friends asking what Spam was and were not willing to try it. I’m pretty sure they are still unwilling to try it. At school, I would eat everything from PB&J or bologna sandwiches, to bagels and Hawaiian Punch or It’s-Its from the lunch line in high school.

I can’t tell you the exact demographics for my elementary school, but I felt like there were very few minorities there. In third grade my elementary school became a magnet school and students were bused in from different places. I feel like this led to a diverse group of friends for me. I have always been into sports and I feel like it has been a pathway to meeting people of all different ethnicities and cultures.From playing football at the elementary school to basketball at a friend’s house to riding bikes, I was always accepted by my peers. There were no cell phones back in the day for parents to call us to come home. It was all predicated by the streetlights. When they came on, we came home.

The final thing I’ll leave you with is this, I honestly cannot remember having any bad experiences. I even asked my mom to make sure. I was just an American kid and I think that’s how all my friends and their parents saw me. My friends were from all different cultures and no one questioned it. We just loved hanging out with each other and playing. The parents looked after all of us as a group and made sure we were safe.