Students navigate numerous challenges daily that impact their social, emotional, and mental health. Asian, Asian American, and AAPI students often have an additional layer of challenges to navigate, from a rise in AAPI violence to managing the impact of stereotypes. Asna Qureshi is a mother of two daughters, former teacher, and Learning Design Specialist at Subject. She was recently featured on Reset with Sasha-Ann Simons on WBEZ Chicago, a local NPR affiliate. Below is a portion of the transcript from What Asian American youth need to thrive – listen to the full episode at
WBEZ Subject
Sasha-Ann: So how have you wrapped your head around this recent rise in [AAPI] attacks?
Asna: You know, I guess I’m lucky in that my girls are too young to be on social media and so they themselves are not experiencing it in that way. But there are things at school right? There are students that will say things and then I have to deal with not only my own mental health in trying to navigate this world, but also trying to help my daughter (who’s currently eight, the older one) navigate all this and how does she understand what’s happening? How do I explain it to her? It’s been challenging. It’s not been easy.
Sasha-Ann: Has it affected the way that you raise your children? I know, of course you mentioned they are offline for now, but are you putting practices in place to sort of try to shield them from information?
Asna: Yes and no, I don’t want to shield them from information because I want them to be prepared for the day that they have to go out, you know, online in the world. But I am being very careful with how I word things. They hear their teachers talking at school, they hear the kids talking. There are so many students at her school that are online, and so there are questions that she has. So my goal is not to keep her in the dark. My goal is to educate her so that she can handle everything when it does come.
Sasha-Ann: Asna, what was your experience in high school?
Asna: That was actually the first time that I had people that looked like me. I went to a local high school and there was a very large Asian American community and that was the first time that I really was exposed to it.
Sasha-Ann: Were there Pakistani people like you?
Asna: Yes. There were, there were a lot of Pakistani and Indian students and it was just the first time that I had been around people that looked like me outside of, you know, my own family. And so I started to kind of come into my own. I stopped trying to push away my culture as much and tried to embrace it more. Of course, that didn’t happen fully until I became, you know, more of an adult. But I started to do those things in high school.
Sasha-Ann: Did the significance of your Pakistani identity come later in life?
Asna: Absolutely. I think once you’re around people that look like you, it makes it okay to act that way, it wasn’t (in my mind) okay to act like a Pakistani person when I was in elementary school, middle school. Because if I did, I would become a target.
Sasha-Ann: And what do you mean by that? What is acting like a Pakistani person? Like eating your traditional food, maybe?
Asna: Not just eating but talking about it or talking about, you know, the, the movies or the music or the clothes, things like that. It was always something that I wanted to hide, that was something that was done at home. It was not something that was done at school. And so I really didn’t start to merge that until I was later high school and in college.
Asna Qureshi Subject
In addition to designing mathematics curriculum at Subject, Asna also utilizes her teaching skills in instructional videos created for Subject’s math courses. 
Sasha-Ann: What goes through your mind then when you see younger people like the voices we heard earlier – they’re embracing their identity at a young age.
Asna: Oh my God, I love it. It makes my heart so happy. Because my daughter is gonna be that, I hope, that as well; that she will be proud of who she is. And I think that’s something in particular with this generation. They are very in tune with who they are and their culture and their heritage and they want to showcase it, which is amazing. And I was a former teacher, so I saw it in my students as well that they really do enjoy to showcase their identity, showcase who they are.
Sasha-Ann: An interesting point that this generation is more likely to speak out. Does that ring true to you Asna?
Asna: Oh, it does. Yeah. And one thing that I will say is this generation is much more likely to speak out and they’re, they’re much more well versed, you know. When I was in high school, I was not paying attention to the news as much as these kids are now. But I find it troubling that while there have been a lot more AAPI students, there’s a lot more diversity in schools, it’s not always reflected in the teachers and the administration. And so the students are really coming out and coming into their own, but they’re not always receiving the support that they would need from their school.
Sasha-Ann: We’ve talked about this model minority myth still having an effect on students today. How about you? Did you feel that in your classroom when you were a teacher?
Asna: I did and actually I taught math so it seemed to be coming a lot from teachers where, not only were they trying to hold Asian American students to a higher standard, right. Assuming that they could go into a more challenging math than they were ready for, but then they would also punish them more harshly for not meeting that goal. So you’re gonna expect more of these kids, but then you’re also going to judge them more harshly than you would say a student that was black or white because you expect them to do much better. And it was a struggle as one of the few non-caucasian teachers at my school. I found myself kind of in that unique position where a lot of the students would come to me with these types of struggles. And you know, it was unfortunate that they were going through something similar to what I went through when I was in high school.
The full episode of What Asian American youth need to thrive is available on
Asna Qureshi Subject

Asna Qureshi

Asna Qureshi is a Muslim American educator from the Chicago suburbs with over a decade of experience in math education. She recently transitioned her focus from teaching and now leads teams of writers to create culturally inclusive and technology literate curriculum for high school math courses. Asna has a Bachelors Degree and Masters Degree in Mathematics and enjoys baking with her two girls.