In Their Own Words: Jesus Jimenez ’24 on Creating Better Support Systems for Bilingual Students

He’s president of Men’s Club Volleyball. He has wanted to be a teacher since childhood. And he hopes to teach at a bilingual school with a focus on supporting young, non-native English speaking students—much like himself when he first arrived in the US.

by Sam Nobile ’25, Student Writer | March 4, 2024

In Their Own Words is a series in which we introduce you to the Gaels you need to meet—students, alums, faculty, and staff—and let them tell their stories, in their own words.

Meet Jesus Jimenez ’24, a senior student majoring in Justice, Community, and Leadership with a focus on Multiple Subject Teacher Education. He’s also president of Men’s Club Volleyball. Deeply passionate about teaching, Jimenez has taught and aided classes as a student since high school, with plans to teach elementary students before moving to the administrative and policymaking side of education.

From Guanajuato to Brentwood

I’m originally from Guanajuato, in the middle of Mexico. My family lived there until I was 12. Then we moved to Brentwood, about 40 minutes away from Saint Mary’s. I went to one week of fifth grade, but I didn’t really start school until sixth grade. My younger brother started in first grade, and my middle sister in fourth. It was pretty challenging. I didn’t know any English when I got here. Right from the start I had to work fast to learn, because none of my immediate family spoke English either. My siblings and I would have to translate for our parents whenever Spanish wasn't an option, which I was mainly responsible for. I also remember being responsible for helping my siblings out with their homework, in addition to doing mine. It’s been almost 11 years since we came. My siblings and I are fluent in English now.

It all comes back to teaching

The path I’m following is part of the teaching track here on campus. I'm working to get my teaching credential for elementary schools, specifically. Justice, Community, and Leadership takes us through the social justice aspects of education, which means looking at teaching through those frameworks. As of now, I hope to teach students in first or second grade.

In elementary school when people would ask me, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” my answer was always, “Teacher.” I explored other courses and looked for other things that I liked. But eventually, I would always go back to teaching, or think, If only I could teach about this… For example, I really like biology. It was my secondary option for my major for a while—though I found myself thinking I might really like to just become a bio teacher instead. 

The road to SMC

I found out about Saint Mary's because of a teaching academy in high school. For my senior year, they brought us here on tour. Two of my high school teachers graduated from the same program I’m in now, and they told me Saint Mary’s has a really good teaching program. Even though sometimes I have to stay up really late doing assignments, it’s worth it. After the last day of class, when we had finished a semester-long research project, our professor asked us what we liked about it, and students gave her honest feedback. I feel that honesty is something that’s been really impactful on my experience at Saint Mary’s, even if it's challenging. 

Introductions to student teaching

My high school had three different academies—one for science, one for art, and one for teaching. It started as a way to have fun experiences related to teaching, but over time it became more like an internship. We started by taking courses on teaching, then we’d go into elementary school classrooms helping teachers, and then eventually, in my senior year, we started teaching shorter versions of our own lessons. We would have to teach one lesson to the kids ourselves that we had also planned on our own. This meant gathering all instructional materials and grading the assigned activity from the lesson. It was an intense experience as a high school student, but it prepared me for a lot of the work that I ended up doing here at Saint Marys. When I got here and I had to do more teaching work like that, it wasn’t something I was worried about.

Jesus Jimenez Volleyball Portrait
Jesus Jimenez ’24 plays defense at a recent Men's Club Volleyball game. / Photo courtesy Jesus Jimenez

Volleyball and coaching

I found volleyball my last year of middle school, through P.E. Before that, I had no idea volleyball even existed. I had the same coach through middle school and high school, and she was the one who got me into playing more club volleyball. At Saint Mary’s, it’s been a way to relax a bit and just have fun. I’ve already coached a few teams—the same middle school team that I started playing on, and some club teams. It’s definitely something I want to do in the future.

How JCL Fosters Close Relationships

One person that I’ve really connected with at SMC is one of my JCL professors, Suzanne Schmidt. Every year I've had at least one class with her. It's special because I’m developing a connection with her to the point where I don't have to go and talk to her just about school. She will ask me, “How's your student teaching going? How are you doing?” It's more of a personal connection at this point. It's really nice to have that support in class, and also be able to follow up on class work with her.

A dream of supporting bilingual students

The school I’m at right now, Meadow Homes Elementary in Concord, is a bilingual school. I didn’t know about bilingual schools until last year when we were introduced to it. When I walked in and the teacher was full-on speaking in Spanish, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, especially as a kid who moved here from Mexico. But now that I've been teaching in a bilingual school, it's amazing. The kids learn so much in both languages, and it's really cool to see it. 

That experience really opened up my path a little more. My mom was also a teacher when our family lived in Mexico. I told her I don't want to be the kind of teacher who eventually reaches retirement just teaching. I want to do around five to ten years of teaching and then hopefully get into the policy development side of education at my school. Schools have been mainly focusing on getting English language learners into English language development classes as the primary way to support these students, but there is no support offered to them outside of school. This is a major issue, especially when students are still expected to complete homework assignments, despite not having anyone at home who is literate in English. I hope to help change that and build better support for students who don’t speak English. 

READ MORE: In Their Own Words: Gabrielle Ly '24 Sees Art History in Her Future

Saint Mary’s Pioneers New Undergraduate Single Subject Teaching Credential Pathways

Top Teacher: Annalouisa Gonzalez-Ortega Named a Teacher of the Year for Championing First-Generation Students in High School

Sam Nobile ’25 is studying English at Saint Mary’s and serves as a student writer with the Office of Marketing and Communications.