Verma Zapanta


Verma Zapanta

10th Grade World History Teacher, Los Angeles Unified School District- School for the Visual Arts & Humanities at Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools

B.A. in Asian American Studies, SFSU, 2010


What was the best part of your experience in Asian American Studies at SFSU?

The best part about my experience at SF State is learning about my identity as a Pinay (Filipina American) and finding a community.  I take pride in growing up in San Francisco and going through my entire educational career within the public school system, both as a student in SFUSD and later SF State. I was very disengaged in school, to verge of almost dropping out.  In my junior year in high school, a friend of mine invited me to an event at SF State that was thrown by PACE (The Pilipino American Collegiate Endeavor) called PCN (Pilipino Cultural Night). This was my first exposure to the Asian American Studies department at SF State and later, the College of Ethnic Studies.That same week, I found a book in the SF Chronicle titled, "When the Elephants Dance" written by a Filipina American author named Tess Uriza Holthe.  I then realized that learning about my own culture re-energized my passion for learning. I decided to become an educator and wanted to teach Filipina/o American studies. I had the privilege of learning early on that I wanted to be an Asian American studies major.  Asian American studies not only motivated me to finish high school and be a teacher, but drove me to be the first person in my family to graduate from college. 

How would you describe your personal, academic and/or professional growth, during your time as an Asian American Studies major/minor at SF State?

A majority of my personal, academic and professional growth happened during my time at SF State as an Asian American studies major. This was also in tandem with my time as a teacher in PEP (Pin@y Educational Partnerships); which is a service learning program out of the AAS department directed by Professor Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales. After a few years of completing course work for my AAS degree, I found out about PEP through one of my colleagues that was also an AAS major.  Before PEP, I wanted to become an AAS professor because I was under the impression that Ethnic Studies could only exist in college classrooms.  After being a PEP teacher and teaching Filipina/o American history in high school classrooms during my undergrad, I learned that my students didn't need to wait until college to learn about ethnic studies. It made me reflective on my high school experience and how disengaged I was. I needed a relevant education and by relevant, I mean an education that had me at the center of history and my learning. The concepts and theories that I learned as an AAS major provided me with a framework for my own pedagogy as a teacher today.  

What is something you learned in Asian American Studies at SFSU—a tip, a technique, a way of thinking—that you still use today?

My biggest take away as an AAS major is the importance of epistemology; or studying other people's experience and valuing your own life experiences as truth and knowledge. It not only helps me develop into a more socially just educator everyday, but has also taught me to be a better human being.   

Finish this sentence:  In Asian American Studies at SF State, I discovered... purpose; to teach, to serve my community, and to transform the world. 

Who was your most influential SFSU Asian American Studies professor and why? 

Dr. Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales (or Ate Allyson) was my most influential SFSU AAS professor and continues to make an impact in my life. Allyson pushed me to be a critical scholar, has helped shaped me into the teacher that I strive to be, and taught me the value of having hope in one's community.  The impact she has on the schools and the lives of her students are immeasurable. In fact, it was with her guidance in PEP that I was able to fulfill my goal of earning my Masters in Education and my teaching credential through UCLA's Teacher Education Program. I wouldn't be where I am today without her.

What was your favorite Asian American Studies class at SFSU?

I actually had two favorite AAS classes during my time at SFSU. One of the first courses I took as a freshman at SF State was AAS 355: Psyche & Behavior of Pilipinos taught by Danilo "Tito Dan" Begonia. (Shout out to "Ating Tao-Matapang: FALL 2003!).  And the last course I took was AAS 363: Filipina/o American Literature, Art & Culture taught by Dr. Tintiangco-Cubales. Both courses pushed students to learn in a different manner. It called for us to build community amongst one another and taught me that performance is learning.

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