The Elgin Heinz Teacher Award was authorized by the Foundation’s Board of Trustees in September 2001 and recognizes exceptional teachers who further mutual understanding between Americans and Japanese. The award is presented annually to two pre-college teachers in two categories, humanities and Japanese language, and consists of a certificate of recognition, a $2,500 monetary award, and $5,000 in project funds. It is named in honor of Elgin Heinz for his commitment to educating students about Asia as well as for the inspiration he has provided to the field of pre-college education.

Elgin Heinz (1913-2005)

Elgin Heinz (1913-2005)

A pioneer in educating American students about Asia, Elgin Heinz served throughout his life as a consultant on the development of materials and methods for teaching about this region of the world. Born in China in 1913, Heinz attended the University of California at Berkeley, graduating with degrees in philosophy and public speaking and eventually earning a graduate degree in history from San Francisco State University. He spent forty years teaching in San Francisco’s Public Schools, at first teaching literature, and later, geography and history. During his tenure as a teacher, Heinz became nationally known for his efforts in assisting students and teachers to learn more about Japan and Asia broadly.

In addition to classroom teaching, Heinz was active in a number of organizations, including the Association for Asian Studies, the Asia Society, the International Society for the Comparative Study of Civilizations, and the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. He served as the Japan Society’s Education Director in 1960. Heinz has authored and edited numerous publications on teaching about Asia, including two widely used curriculum guides, Opening Doors and Stepping Stones.

Heinz has been the recipient of many awards including the National Council for Geographic Education’s California Teacher of the Year and, in 1997, the World Affairs Council of Northern California’s Castile Award. Perhaps the award that most epitomizes his groundbreaking work in K-12 Asian Studies was the Association for Asian Studies Committee on Teaching About Asia’s 1987 recognition of Elgin Heinz for “Fifty Years of Innovative Teaching About Asia.”*

(*Biographical information regarding Elgin Heinz and photograph were taken from the Fall 2000 issue of Education About Asia and were reprinted with permission from the Association for Asian Studies.)

2017 Award Recipients

Congratulations to the 2017 Elgin Heinz Teacher Award recipients, Ms. Yoshimi Yamagata Aoyagi, Teacher of Japanese Language, East Chapel Hill High School and Chapel Hill High School, Chapel Hill, NC; Ms. Sarah Campbell, English Teacher, Ketchikan High School, Kethikan, Alaska; Ms. Naomi Funahashi, Manager of the Reischauer Scholars Program, Stanford University, Stanford, CA.

Read about these award recipients here.