Meet Czarina Jimenez: Elementary Music Teacher in Southern California and grad student studying Neuroscience and Education! Czarina is passionate about music, self-care, and social justice. Talking with her was really inspiring and exciting because we share a lot of the same passions AND because I don’t have a music program at my school, so learning about hers was really awesome. Check out our interview below and show her NEW instagram some love: @littleupbeatclass.
Q: Who is Czarina Jimenez? What is one thing people might not know about you from your Instagram?
A: I am a 5th year Elementary Music teacher in Southern California and a grad student studying Neuroscience and Education. I got to give a TEDx talk at my alma mater during my first year of teaching. I grew up in a Filipino-American household in Los Angeles, so food (cooking and eating) is 100% my love language. I’m pretty extroverted and I’m always embarrassing my friends with really bad puns. I’m most at peace in a coffee shop with a good book.
Q: What inspired you to start your Instagram account?
A: @charliekilo is my personal Instagram. On it I share my experiences as a music educator, and the people and places I love. I see IG as a way of holding myself accountable for teaching, wellness, and adventure. The educators and creatives that I follow always inspire me.
@teacherlovecollective is a passion project I’ve recently started. It is a quarterly gathering of intentional self-love for teachers and a downloadable ‘gathering guide’ of self-care activities and discussion questions so that anyone could host their own Teacher Love Collective with their friends. The goal is to for teachers to be nourished in community with others who understand the same joys and challenges of education.
Q: What are some things that you’re passionate about as an educator?
A: I am passionate about power of music to cultivate social-emotional learning skills. When my kids sing together, they collaborate, share space, and experience the importance of their individual voice. I’m also passionate about culturally responsive music education.
Q: What does Culturally Responsive Teaching mean to you? What does it look like as a music teacher?
A: I’m still learning and growing in my journey to being a more culturally responsive music teacher, but for starters, it looks like valuing the unique culture of each student, valuing (with high expectations) the voice and skill of each student, and choosing songs and activities that are authentic.
This year, two first grade girls each shared sang a song in Hindi and then Thai. Their classmates were so excited and the two girls were so proud. It was cool because we were studying songs from around the world.
Who am I to just put on a video of a song from Thailand or India when I have two little girls who can sing for our class? Much of music education has been centered on Eurocentric, “sage-on-the-stage” pedagogy but this is not culturally responsive.
Culturally responsive teaching is also letting students teach YOU.
Music touches all levels of culture. Music has been revolutionary. Music has been oppressive. It’s so deeply ingrained with who we are. To not teach music in a way that addresses this is a waste of an opportunity.
Q: What’s the difference between choir and classroom music?
A: Choir is what you see in movies - rehearsals, performances, and singing. In addition to singing, I love getting my students into the text of the song.
Classroom music is a mix of music appreciation, theory, and performance. I teach using techniques from the Kodaly concept. It emphasizes tons of singing, authentic folk songs, music literacy, creativity, dance, and games.
Q: What’s the one piece of advice you would give to a new teacher?
A: Surround yourself with people who remind you how much you love teaching.
It is easy to fall prey to burnout your first year, especially when you are surrounded by negative voices. Surround yourself with people who believe in you, encourage you, and who remind you to take care of yourself.
Q: What was your most challenging experience in the classroom? What did you learn?
A: Students who blatantly act like they don’t care are the biggest challenges to me. One year I had a student who would always come to choir with the worst attitude. I wanted to give up on him. Instead, I decided to not take his attitude personally, and I worked harder to make sure that I was building a positive relationship with him.
Now he’s in the advanced choir and he’s excited whenever he sees me- it’s crazy. I learned that those tough kids could surprise you when given the chance.
Q: What does self-care mean to you? How do you take care of yourself while taking care of others?
A: Self-care to me is creating space. With a busy schedule, it is so easy for me to loose ownership of is my time. Creating space is stepping back and nourishing myself. Sometimes it’s reading at a coffee shop for a couple hours, sometimes it’s getting out of town with girlfriends, sometimes it’s as simple as yoga and puppy snuggles.
It is all about creating that space to stop, breath, and reset.