Ms. Michelle L. Pearson (Humanities Category)
Social Studies Educator
Hulstrom Options School, Northglenn, Colorado
Ms. Michelle Pearson is a social studies educator at Hulstrom Options School in Northglenn, Colorado. She teaches World Geography, World History, and American History, along with several extension courses which focus on the study of Japan, Asia, and Asian-American communities. She has taught a variety of subjects, and is the faculty sponsor of the National Junior Honor Society, the Podcasting Club, and several student enrichment activities. She serves on the Adams12 District Standing Committee for Social Studies, and works with several state-wide agencies and programs to promote the study of social studies and historic preservation at the k-12 level.
Ms. Pearson has held a long interest in Japan. She remembers growing up in the central valley of California along with many Japanese American friends, and several of her neighborhood friends were both Japanese, and first and second generation Japanese Americans. She was lucky enough to participate in many cultural activities surrounding their heritage as well as listening to stories from her grandfather who served in the military during WWII. Her undergraduate degree is from Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia and was focused on the study of history with an emphasis on Japanese history and East Asia. She worked as a volunteer at the Smithsonian Institution in the National Air and Space Museum for three years cataloging photographs of Japanese and American aircraft during World War II, and helped design materials to support educational programming on Japanese Americans.
Upon her move to Colorado, she continued teaching at the K-8 level and received a Fulbright Memorial Fund Teacher Fellowship which allowed her to visit and study Japan. She was a participant in the Japanese Studies Leadership Program sponsored by the Program for Teaching East Asia, the Five College Center for East Asian Studies, and the East Asia Resource Center at the University of Washington as well as the Freeman Foundation. This program had a profound impact on her, and supported her work in professional development for other educators.
Ms. Pearson has since worked to promote the study of Japan through leading workshops for educators on Japan on the local, state, and national level, being a seminar leader for the National Consortium for Teaching Asia, working to preserve and document oral history from Japanese Americans in Colorado, supporting the development of new curricular materials for teachers on Japan through participation in a variety of focus groups and programs, and the review and field-testing of exemplary resources from the SPICE Program, the Program for Teaching East Asia, the Japanese American Museum, NEH, and local districts in Colorado.
Ms. Pearson feels that the most important element in the study of social studies is to engage students in hands-on activities that allow them to experience another culture. Because of this belief, she coordinates Japan Day for three inner-city schools in Colorado and her own, and has helped to establish an active Asian studies program extension at her school. She works with her students to stay in contact with three partner schools in Japan through the Fort Wright-Mukogawa Friendship Doll Program and a local sister-city program, and works with the Colorado Preserve America Youth Summit to encourage and support students in the preservation of historic sites and documenting the history of Japanese Americans in Colorado. She is deeply grateful to the outstanding mentors she has worked with who have helped shape how she teaches about Japan. With their guidance, leadership, and programming expertise, she is able to bring the study of Japan to the classroom and make a hopefully make a true difference at how students view, study, and communicate with Japan.