Czarina Francisco Jimenez
Meet Czarina Francisco Jimenez, a first generation Filipina-American woman from North East LA with a knack for culturally responsive music education. Read along as she discusses the importance of equitable funding for music education in schools as well as her role as a female music-director of color.
Hi there! Please introduce yourself.
Who are you (I’d like to invite you to think about your own multi-layered identity)?
Hi there! My name is Czarina Francisco Jimenez. I am a 1st generation Filipina-American Woman, from North East Los Angeles. I loved growing up in LA because of the richness of cultures, foods, and the arts. I always wanted to teach music, but never considered it a career choice because in my family, success was becoming a medical professional. I switched to music education my freshman year of college and never looked back! I am a daughter, older sister, #1 fangirl of my Mexican-American drummer husband, dog-mom, and proud music teacher.
What is the purpose or function of education in society?
To me, the purpose of specifically music education in society is best summed up with this quote:
“Why I teach music… So you will be human, so you will recognize beauty, so you will be closer to an infinite beyond this world, so you will have something to cling to, so you will have more love, more compassion, more gentleness, more good, in short, more life.” -Unknown
What are your experiences in the field of Education?
I have taught elementary classroom music and choirs for 5 years. My first year of teaching was a whirlwind. I had 4 teaching jobs at once – I taught at a well-funded elementary, an under-funded elementary, private voice lessons, and drove an hour out every day to direct music for a children’s theatre. I also started a community youth choir for a school district where music education is not provided for the lower elementary grades. The youth choir is now in its fourth year of serving students! I currently teach elementary music and choir at a private Christian school in San Bernardino County.
In what ways can education be transformative and/or liberating?
Education is not only about “what is” but also “what can be.” As a music teacher, I have the joy of guiding my students into becoming not only stronger musicians, but also confident young people who listen, collaborate, empathize, and create. They give me hope for the future.
In what ways can/should the current system of education be transformed or liberated?
Music education deserves equitable support and funding in all schools. Also, music is a powerful tool to teach social justice, social-emotional skills, 21st century skills,and appreciation/acceptance of other cultures. Therefore, music must be taught in a culturally responsive way. For many years, the focus of music education was very Western Euro-centric – think Mozart and Beethoven. Every other genre/culture was considered “other” or not even acknowledged. Studies have shown that this results in students of color feeling discouraged and isolated. Music bridges communities and permeates all levels of culture. All students, especially students of color, deserve music education that is culturally and socially relevant.
Have you ever felt like you needed to hide certain parts of your identity (e.g.-race, religion, culture, sexual orientation, social class, etc.) in order to be embraced either as a student OR teacher in school settings?
As a woman of color in music education, I am a minority. The majority of music teachers are white and usually male. Because of this, I have felt pressure to maintain the status quo in order to prove my worth. As I grew in my own voice and resilience, I realized that being a female-music-director of color is my strength. I am representation. This understanding led me to challenge the status quo, to fight injustice, and to be intentional about providing wider representation and a deeper understanding/appreciation of my students’ identities in my teaching.
What advice do you have for teachers of color/of the Global Majority OR teachers who teach children of color during these deeply challenging times?
Teachers – you are what you bring to the classroom.
Not lesson plans, not activities. You. Always be aware of what you are bringing. Are you bringing bias? Are you bringing love? Are you bringing hope? What do you bring when you bring yourself?
Check out Czarina's blog at www.littleupbeat.com and follow her on IG @charliekilo & @teacherlovecollective!