As Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month unfolds, America250 wants to introduce you to some of the leaders behind the multi-year effort to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Karalee Wong Nakatsuka, M.A. Ed., has taught U.S. History to middle school students since 1990. She is passionate about using technology to engage students, focusing on building community in her classroom, and helping students to see themselves in the story of America as they develop into citizens who make a difference in the world.

In 2023, Nakatsuka was recognized in a Teacher Tribute by the Ford’s Theatre Society at their Annual Gala and was also named the California Council for the Social Studies Middle School Social Studies Teacher of the Year. In 2019 she was recognized as the Gilder Lehrman History Teacher of the Year for California.

She serves on the Educating for American Democracy Teacher Leadership Taskforce, the iCivics Educator Network, the America250 Civics, History, & America’s Future Advisory Council, and the Gilder Lehrman Teacher Advisory Council. Nakatsuka was honored to be featured in The New York Times‘ August 2022 multimedia and newspaper piece “What’s Actually Being Taught About U.S. History” and in Time Magazine’s September 2021 issue “From Teachers to Custodians, Meet the Educators Who Saved a Pandemic School Year.” She is the co-author of “Bring History and Civics to Life, Lessons & Strategies to Cultivate Informed, Empathetic Citizens” published by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).

Meet Advisory Council Member Karalee Wong Nakatsuka

Why did you want to join the America250 Commission?

I wanted to join America250 to represent history teachers by sharing my voice and contributing to the celebration of our Semiquincentennial.

What do you want people to take away from the Semiquincentennial?

I hope that people will recognize that we are a country founded upon outstanding ideals– “We the people” and “all men are created equal”; however, our reality has never fully reflected these grand aspirations. I want people to question, reflect, respond, and take action as engaged and informed citizens who will work to close this gap between our ideals and our reality, so that We can truly be a We.

Why should Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islander Americans participate in the anniversary celebration?

As a Chinese American, and the granddaughter of immigrants, I find strength and purpose in celebrating community, whether it’s with my family, friends, the students in my classroom, or history colleagues across the country. Participating in America’s 250th is an opportunity to celebrate the community of “We the People.” We Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islander Americans, and all communities, need to participate and speak up to remind ourselves and our fellow Americans that we are all an integral part of the story of America, past, present, and future.

What is a fun fact about yourself?

I was on Family Feud with my brother and cousins. The highlight was when we won fast money and our grandparents (who loved game shows) got to come celebrate on the stage with us, along with several other family members.