Terry Marzell’s book Chalkboard Champions mentioned on Asian American Journal

I am always gratified when I discover that others are supportive of my efforts to honor remarkable teachers, so I was excited to learn that my first book, Chalkboard Champions, was recently mentioned on the website for Asian American Journal. A chapter of my book explores the life and work of Japanese-America educator Mary Tsukamoto, an elementary school teacher from northern California who was incarcerated in a Japanese-American internment camp during WWII. Her life story highlights a shameful episode in American history, but the good that comes out of her family’s misfortune truly inspires the reader.

You can check out the mention on the website at this link: Asian American Journal. Enjoy!

Japanese American Journal

Mary Tsukamoto: The Chalkboard Champion Imprisoned in an American WWII Internment Camp

maryts1[1]When Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Empire of Japan, Mary Tsukamoto was living a quiet life as the wife of a strawberry farmer in a diminutive Japanese-American community in Florin, Northern California. Following the attack, Mary’s quiet life was suddenly turned upside-down. Like 120,000 other persons of Japanese descent living on the West Coast, most of them American citizens, Mary was forced into a relocation camp by the U.S. government because her loyalty to our country was questioned. Mary, her husband, their five-year-old daughter, her elderly in-laws, her teenaged brother and sisters, and other members of her family wound up in Jerome, Arkansas, where they were incarcerated until authorities were convinced this family of farmers posed no threat to national security. While detained in the camp, Mary became part of a prisoner-organized effort to provide meaningful educational opportunities for their imprisoned children. Mary taught speech courses for the high school students and English language classes for the elderly.

When the war was over, Mary returned to college, completed her degree, and became an elementary schoolteacher, one of the first certificated Japanese-American teachers in the United States. Her remarkable story is told in her autobiography, We the People, a volume which unfortunately is now out of print. However, with some effort, it can be found through second-hand book sellers or in some libraries (check WorldCat), and it is well worth the hunt. You can read also read her story in Chalkboard Champions, available through amazon.com.

Mary Tsukamoto: Teacher, Prisoner, American Hero

85x120xtsukamato.jpg.pagespeed.ic.W0tMgwon8I[1][1]At the start of World War II, Mary Tsukamoto was living a quiet life as the wife of a strawberry farmer in a diminuitive Japanese-American community in Florin, Northern California. When Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Empire of Japan on December 7, 1941, “a day that will live in infamy,” Mary’s quiet life was suddenly turned upside-down. Like 120,000 other persons of Japanese descent living on the West Coast, most of them American citizens, Mary was forced into a relocation camp by the U.S. government because her loyalty to our country was questioned. Mary, her husband, their five-year-old daughter, her elderly in-laws, her teenaged brother and sisters, and other members of her family wound up in Jerome, Arkansas, where they were incarcerated until authorities were convinced this family of farmers posed no threat to national security. While detained in the camp, Mary became part of a prisoner-organized effort to provide meaningful educational opportunities for their imprisoned children. Mary taught speech courses for the high school students and English language classes for the elderly.

After the war, she returned to college, completed her degree, and became an elementary schoolteacher, one of the first certificated Japanese American teachers in the United States. Her remarkable story is told in her autobiography, We the People, a volume which unfortunately is now out of print. However, with some effort, it can be found through second-hand book sellers or in some libraries (check WorldCat), and it is well worth the hunt. You can read also read her story in Chalkboard Champions, available through amazon.com.

How Did I Select Teachers to Write About in the Book?

chalkboard2[1]I am often asked how I selected the teachers I wrote about in my book, Chalkboard Champions. Two of the twelve were easy: Anne Sullivan, the teacher who worked with Helen Keller, and Jaime Escalante, the teacher who was the subject of the movie Stand and Deliver. I don’t think a book about outstanding teachers can be written if these two are excluded. It helped that Anne Sullivan worked with handicapped students and Jaime Escalante worked with inner city Latino youth, since the thrust of my book is teachers who worked with disenfranchised student populations. After I selected these two, I began to think about other groups of disenfranchised students. I thought about minority groups such as Native Americans and African Americans, which led me to Elaine Goodale Eastman, Charlotte Forten Grimke, Carter Godwin Woodson, and Sandra Adickes. I specifically looked for a teacher in Hawaii, and discovered Gladys Kamakakuokalani Brandt. I have to say, the chapter I wrote for Gladys is among my favorite chapters. Then I considered underprivileged students such as the poor, orphans, and newly-arrived immigrants. Researching these groups led me to Julia Richman, Clara Comstock, and Leonard Covello. I specifically looked for a teacher who was working with students in World War II Japanese internment camps, and after much effort found Mary Tsukamoto. I stumbled across Eulalia Bourne, and couldn’t resist her.
When selecting the teachers I wrote about, I tried to include a good cross section of ethnic groups, both as teachers and as student groups. I strove to include both men and women, although it is easier to find women teachers to write about, and I also attempted to include representation from a variety of geographic regions within the United States. I also tried to select teachers that came from different time periods in our history, starting from the Civil War era and continuing through to more contemporary times.
I love to tell stories about remarkable teachers, and although I selected twelve very extraordinary teachers to write about, there were, of course, many more that I did not have room to include in the volume. I hope to write about these others in future publications! You can read the fascinating stories of the remarkable teachers mentioned above in the book  Chalkboard Champions, available on amazon.