This International Women’s Day, Linjer is celebrating all the empowering women that inspire us every day. As a female founded brand, we believe in the importance of uplifting and amplifying the voices of trailblazing women in our communities.
Q: Can you tell our readers about yourself and describe what you do?
Hi, I’m Katrina! To be honest, the question of “what do you do?” is quite a loaded one for me. But in terms of my roles, I’m a Los Angeles-based educator, social media manager, and content creator. Some educational and professional background: I graduated from UC Irvine in 2017 with two bachelor’s degrees in Education Sciences and Psychology & Social Behavior.
My love for teaching led me to Harvard Graduate School of Education where I earned my Master’s in Teacher Education and Credential in Secondary Social Science. Over the course of 5 years, I’ve taught and tutored students in US History, Ethnic Studies, US Government, AP Psychology, and through an Empowerment Program in Japan. While I am not currently in the classroom, education and empowerment remain woven into everything that I do.
I currently work as the Social Media Manager for my favorite sustainable brand, Plaine Products. I’ve been with them since September 2020 and am so proud to be working with a small, but mighty team of like-minded women. Together, we are changing the world–one refillable shampoo bottle at a time.
Q: What inspired you to teach? After entering into the education field, is it what you expected?
From as early as I could remember, I’ve wanted to be a teacher. As a little kid, I would play “School” with my younger cousins and had so much fun creating lessons and activities for them. My passion for teaching, mentoring, and working with students carried on throughout my adolescence and college years, and it was the only career path I truly considered. This is why it was so difficult to navigate the negative feelings that persisted when I finally stepped into the classroom as a first-year full-time teacher. Everyone told me the first year would be hard, but it really is something that you can only understand once you’re a full-time teacher yourself.
My experiences as a student-teacher, summer school teacher, mentor, college counselor, teaching intern, and grad school student could not have prepared me for just how difficult and unsustainable the profession would be. The daily exhaustion and anxiety, never-ending to-do list, imposter syndrome, impossible expectations, post-pandemic transition back to in-person learning, being overworked, underappreciated, and undercompensated, and the intense burnout that resulted from my own perfectionist tendencies (in addition to all of the above) were just some of the reasons that drove me to leave my job. But please don’t get me wrong–it was the hardest decision I’ve made to date.
Anyone who knows me knows how much I love teaching and my (former) students. But the teaching profession didn’t love me (us teachers) back. The decision to leave my classroom in the middle of the 2021-2022 school year was not easy and I still carry mixed feelings about it, but it was integral for my mental, physical, and emotional health, and for my journey as an educator, whether I return to the classroom or not.
Q: How does your work as a teacher inform what you do as a content creator?
I absolutely love this question because there are SO many ways in which it does! I think the biggest way that my work as a teacher informs how I approach content creating is that above all, I prioritize building community. I truly believe that a creator is not much without their community, and that a community is not much without trust. And trust is earned through consistently showing up as my authentic self in order to connect with others.
By backwards planning (a teacher term, haha), I create content with the goal of building trust within my community. In both the classroom and on social media, I make it a point to learn my students/followers’ names, I seek feedback to adjust my teaching practices/content to best serve my students/followers, I model vulnerability and show up as an imperfect human, I understand that my students/followers all have different goals and learning/consumption preferences, I emphasize the nuanced reality of things I teach/post about, and I live for meaningful interactions with my community. Whether it’s a lesson plan, YouTube video, or Instagram post, I always aim to make authentic, engaging, and easily-digestible content that includes a dash of my quirkiness :)
Q: Malala Fund’s mission is to improve access to education for girls around the world; what does this initiative mean from your perspective as a woman and an educator?
I want to share a teaching experience that reminds me of how full circle this campaign is and why it’s so meaningful to me. In 2017, I went to Japan as an intern for Summer Empowerment Programs across the country. The majority of the schools I taught at were all-girls high schools, and our goal was to encourage these young girls to identify and share their goals/dreams, celebrate one another’s talents and ideas, and become more active participants in society.
One of the most important and empowering lessons we taught was Malala’s story and work as an activist. Students were inspired to reflect on how societal/cultural norms in Japan impacted women. They worked in groups to think of one obstacle women faced and brainstorm a solution (see their amazing poster below!). What was most exciting to see was how supportive students were of each others' ideas and how happy and proud they were of their own posters and presentations. When asked which one of our lessons was most empowering, most students and fellow teachers agreed it was this one.
To me, Malala’s mission helps open new realms of possibilities for women and girls around the world. Through my experiences as both a learner and a teacher, I’ve seen that education leads to an expansion of perspectives, empathy, and the understanding of the power we ourselves hold. Increasing access to education for young girls is pivotal if we want to progress and move towards a more equitable and changemaking society.
Q: From your experience teaching in the U.S., do you think there are still differences in access or is there equal opportunity for education in the areas you’ve taught in?
The education offered across K-12 schools in the United States is different in many ways. Testing, standards, textbooks, teachers, policies, resources, and priorities can differ greatly from state to state to the point where the same course may be taught in completely polarizing ways. There are even stark discrepancies within the same county, city, district, and sometimes even within the same school.
I’m especially reminded of this when I teach Ethnic Studies–an interdisciplinary course focusing on the recognition and significance of American “multicultural" history and diversity in the United States. Unlike many traditional American History courses, Ethnic Studies provides the opportunity for students to explore the experiences, contributions, adversity, and excellence of African Americans, Latina/o/x Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans. The goal of this course is to educate and inspire students to be more informed about their own personal narratives and how they tie to the narratives of their peers as well as to the history and social landscape of our country. Despite the class being built on principles of community, love, cultural awareness, and shared humanity, Ethnic Studies is an extremely controversial course that is banned in many states.
Similarly, many U.S. History courses around the country are also barred from teaching about topics like slavery and racism. As such, many students–of all genders and identities–are not given access to transparent education about our country’s painful, yet deeply important history. In the first few days of my Ethnic Studies class, I have students observe the differences between a history textbook in California and the same textbook in Texas (the information ends up looking pretty different). I then have them analyze the impact of textbooks on students from these different states. I make sure to emphasize that the lesson is not about applauding or denouncing a certain state, but to begin to understand the reasons behind the polarization we see in society today, and why certain rules and regulations persist.
I feel grateful to live in a state where Ethnic Studies is not only offered to students, but is now a high school graduation requirement. Ironically, many of the opponents of the course have never stepped foot in an Ethnic Studies class. So because I was given the opportunity to teach such an important course (twice now), I believe that it is crucial that I use my platform to share about what we’re learning. My students have said that they walk out of my classroom with a greater understanding of our country’s history and with greater confidence in themselves… and that is honestly all I could wish for for all students.
Q: Tell us about a woman who has inspired you.
Three women who inspire me are my mom and grandmas, Ma and An Ma. I’m a proud second-generation Chinese American, and it is my privilege to be a daughter and granddaughter of brave Vietnam War refugee parents and grandparents. My four grandparents sacrificed everything in hopes that their children could have a better life. Because of their sacrifice (and of course, everything that my parents have worked hard for), I was able to be born into the life that I live. I will never forget where I come from and those who have paved the path that I am able to walk today.
Q: What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned from them?
I think more than anything, trying to view life through the lens of my mom, Ma, and An Ma has allowed me to expand my understanding of and empathy for the human experience and all its complexities. That previous sentence is a bit abstract, but basically, I think I’ve learned the most through analyzing who they are today and connecting the dots in their lives that have led them here. They have all gone through their own unique turbulences and have persevered, adapted, and continued to show love in their own way to those around them.
My mom teaches me that “little” wins are still worth celebrating, my Ma teaches me that a smile and positive outlook can still make a difference when everything seems impossible, and my An Ma constantly shows me the importance of being honest with how we feel even if it’s challenging. And they all remind me that not everyone is looking to chase the “mainstream” markers of “success” and “happiness”–for some, it’s more than enough to play Mahjong on the weekends, spend time with their kids and grandkids, and eat their favorite afternoon snack. The biggest dream my grandmas have now would be to simply walk on their feet again 💔
Asian women, especially our elders, are rarely given a chance to share their story. Deeply-rooted patriarchy, misogyny, and racism have convinced so many of us to believe that we don’t have anything worthy to say. One of my favorite forms of activism and ways to use my platform is amplifying the stories of the women in my life who were told they had to be silent.
Poems that I wrote from the perspective of my grandparents at different points in their lives:
If you made it here, I want to sincerely thank you for making time for my story. And a huge thank you to Linjer for the deep care and intention that goes into everything that they do!
Hope to see you around: