Meet Allison Joe


Allison is the proud mom of two daughters, who are students at Columbia Middle School and San Miguel Elementary, both Title 1 schools in Sunnyvale. Her children are future Fremont High School students. Her husband, a Filipino immigrant, grew up in north Sunnyvale and attended Lakewood Elementary and Sunnyvale Junior High before graduating from Fremont High School. Allison’s eldest daughter first started kindergarten at San Miguel in 2016. The election that year, combined with increased awareness of the striking disparities between the financial and social capital resources of parent organizations in schools located just minutes apart, strengthened Allison’s resolve to live her values. She got involved in school life and started building the world she wants her own kids to grow into – a more fair, just, and diverse world where ALL children can meet their fullest potential and realize their common humanity in connection with others.


Allison’s Chinese American immigrant roots in the United States trace back to Hawaii in the late 1800s and California in the 1920s. While her family values are deeply rooted in Chinese culture, such as education, respect for elders, and a strong work ethic, they have also assimilated into the dominant American culture over generations in order to thrive in this diverse nation. Her grandmothers were born in the US, while her grandfathers arrived as young boys, one as an unaccompanied minor from Guangdong province to Angel Island. Allison’s family understands the complexities of American culture from both sides. They faced discrimination but also found opportunities for success.

Allison’s family captures the complexity and contradictions of the American dream narrative. Despite their long standing American roots, Allison still faces questions about her origin, reminding her of the challenges that persist. Her family started from humble immigrant origins with subsequent generations of her family finding professional success.

As the daughter of a doctor and a teacher, Allison knows both the privileges and the limitations of growing up where there are limited ways of “showing up” and narrow definitions of “success.” Her love of reading, nature, and travel have expanded her worldview, fostering curiosity, empathy, and cross-cultural connections with others. She is a human connector who loves to cultivate relationships and broaden her understanding of the world.

Occupational Therapist

The core values of occupational therapists are altruism, equality, freedom, justice, dignity, truth, and prudence. For the past 17 years, Allison has worked as an occupational therapist at Stanford Hospital, rehabilitating patients facing serious illnesses or injuries. Occupational therapists are problem solvers and trained to view individuals holistically through a systems approach. They embrace a philosophy of “doing together” (as opposed to “doing for” or “doing to”). Her work involves empowering patients and their families to reach their full potential in a manner that aligns with their goals, values, resources, and abilities.

She embraces a patient-centered approach that emphasizes collaboration and acknowledges the strengths and abilities of each individual, regardless of their background or diagnosis. From CEOs to homeless individuals, undocumented immigrants to professors emeriti, Allison works with complex and diverse patients in their most human, vulnerable moments, guiding them towards functional recovery, quality of life, and adaptation to new circumstances. She firmly believes that every person possesses inherent value and deserves dignity, and she consistently encourages individuals to exceed their own expectations.

Peace Corps

As a former Peace Corps volunteer in Turkmenistan, Allison lived overseas and knows how to serve and represent as an American. She experienced the transformative power of living in a different culture with distinct languages and living conditions. She made a difference by partnering with local counterparts to promote health education in villages and organizing an English immersion summer camp.

Her experience living in an autocratic dictatorship gave her a deep appreciation for American institutions, freedoms, and democracy while understanding that ordinary citizens share universal goals for their families to be healthy and their children to have opportunities to do well. However, her most significant growth occurred on a personal level, as she developed self-awareness, cultural humility, and an understanding that many assumed truths are shaped by cultural and contextual factors.


Allison was the founding president of the PTA at San Miguel Elementary School, a Title 1 school in north Sunnyvale, where the majority of families live below the poverty line. She and her husband made the intentional choice to enroll their children at San Miguel and Columbia Middle School for the Juntos Spanish immersion program instead of their home school. It was a new program at the time and her older daughter is in the second cohort of Juntos students. The majority of the school population are Spanish speaking working class immigrant families, although demographics are shifting over time, both due to the integrative objectives of the Juntos program to draw families from across Sunnyvale neighborhoods as well as other regional variables.

Students at San Miguel and Columbia Middle School, as with all schools in the area, receive an excellent academic education while developing a strong foundation in socioemotional learning, empathy, and inclusive practices for navigating a complex and diverse world.

In building the PTA with school and community partners, equity has been infused into the San Miguel PTA from its inception. All meetings and communications are in both Spanish and English. The PTA helps to fund scholarships to ensure access to extracurricular programs that can help bridge opportunity gaps. Allison’s work with the PTA increased students’ opportunities for academic enrichment through field trips, assemblies, and extracurricular activities. She increased fundraising, coordinated a free Zumba fitness class, started a PTA book club to explore themes of privilege and anti-racism, and started the comité de padres hispanos, now called the comite de familias unidas, to create a space of engagement and empowerment specifically with monolingual Spanish speakers. She planned events that centered the majority Latinx community and culture. She helped bring extracurricular programs including band, art, robotics, ukelele, Brazilian jiu jitsu, and danza folclórico to the school through partnerships with community organizations, parent partners, and school staff.

She sought to build an inclusive and equitable organization that centered the longstanding cultures of the school and guided the building of an organization that would not inadvertently perpetuate systems of privilege and marginalization.

She learned Spanish, has made lots of mistakes, and has made people laugh, as she has navigated the language and Latin American culture. She has sought to use the PTA as a means to recognize and bring the community’s diverse strengths together in a gentrifying historically marginalized community. Allison rolled her sleeves up to tend the gardens of equity while developing the intellectual foundation to inform her work by reading literature and listening to podcasts on topics of anti-racism, school integration, and equity in education.

Allison’s unique background as an occupational therapist and former Peace Corps volunteer informs her approach to community development. Allison recognizes the challenges of creating inclusive environments and fostering a sense of belonging, drawing from her own experiences to amplify and build community.

She collaborates with other parents and invites them to be a part of the organization in meaningful ways that magnifies their talents and capacity to be school leaders. She puts inclusion into action by helping other parents share their powerful and needed voices on campus and in the community. She knows the value of hard work in critical situations and maintains a sense of humor, even in the face of adversity. She sees the power of education to both prepare young people for the world as it currently exists, as well as how a system with an equity focus can itself shift to meet students where they are at, provide a sense of belonging, spark a love of learning, and support them to reach their academic and human potential.