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Planning & Teacher Professional Development

Eight participating teachers alongside high school instructional coaches joined three professional development sessions to prepare to introduce Building Empathy in their classes.

SESSION ONE – December 7, 2022

The first professional development training was held on December 7, a day that’s known as “Pearl Harbor Day” that led to the US bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. To honor the lives lost, we read two poems by Sakara Kurihada (1913 –2005):

  • When We Say “Hiroshima”! 
  • Let Us Be Midwives! —An untold story of the atomic bombing

Pasadena-based writer Jessica Kashiwabara joined the session and read from her essay, The Study, a musing on her grandfather who was held at a concentration camp in Heart Mountain, Wyoming, far from his home in Los Angeles. In the Q&A session that followed, Jessica led the discussion about the need to deepen district-wide understanding of US Executive Order 9066. 

Artist Clement Hanami from the Japanese American National Museum and Kimberly Velazco from the Art Center joined the teachers to share information and discuss a possible collaboration for a new course, Never Again 9066, that the Art Center offered in spring 2023 (their project was also funded by California State Library’s Civil Liberties grant).

During the afternoon, teachers worked together to collaborate and create modules for their respective courses in spring 2023 when they planned to introduce the project to their students.

SESSION TWO – January 18, 2023

The second professional development session was a collaboration between Pasadena Unified’s Ethnic Studies leaders and Civil Liberties course leaders. The morning session was dedicated to a ritual, Remembering Our Ancestors, led by Dr. Manual Rustin and Mr. David Flores, through which fifteen participants (Ethnic Studies as well as Civil Liberties course instructors) shared objects from their family histories.

During the second half, Dr. Mathew Kodama (Pasadena High School principal) and Ms. Linda Machida (development consultant, Pasadena Educational Foundation), joined the gathering to discuss their family histories and their personal connections. Both are Japanese American educators with deep roots in Pasadena as well as family members who were detained in concentration camps during World War Two. The panelists as well as the teachers were moved by the conversation; Dr. Kodama said that though he often talked about Executive Order 9066 and took his son to Manzanar concentration camp each year, he had not discussed his family’s experience with fellow educators. PUSD teachers and administrators who witnessed and engaged in the conversation were struck by how PUSD employees and community members had been impacted by the US government’s role during and after WWII and how that impacted the Japanese American community nationally as well well as so close to home.

The session also contained a breakout group for Building Empathy instructors to collaborate and prepare for a field trip to Little Tokyo and the Japanese American National Museum’s Common Ground exhibition.

SESSION THREE – March 14, 2023

The final spring professional development session was more unstructured with time built in for teachers to review spring modules, collaborate, share ideas, and plan final products. Pasadena Media podcaster Joe Carbonetta joined the group and shared edited recordings of student interviews that were conducted by Sehba Sarwar. As a community partner in the project, Pasadena Media offered its services to teachers to record and/or edit any work that students produced on their campuses. 

All professional development sessions were planned by writer/artist Sehba Sarwar in collaboration with Jose Ortega, PUSD Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Development Coordinator, and Ashley Butler, PUSD History/Social Science Specialist

Building Empathy is supported by funding provided by the State of California through the California Civil Liberties program, administered by the California State Library.

What we hear!

In their end of the year reflections, students mentioned that they loved learning about the Japanese American experience. It was very unique. It’s something I never imagined doing. They were able to replicate their own newspapers and they really went above and beyond what I imagined they would do.
— Ms. Jesus Cobian Baca, Blair International Baccalaureate