Jane Medina (1953–) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights
Born 1953, in Alhambra, CA; Ethnicity: "White by birth, Latina in my heart." Education: Azusa Pacific University, B.A., 1975; California State University, Fullerton, M.S., 1999. Religion: Christian. Hobbies and other interests: "Walking by the ocean, in the mountains, or just down the street—especially with my family."
Office—California Elementary School, 1080 North California St., Orange, CA 92869.
Orange Unified School District, Orange, CA, elementary music teacher, 1977–82, bilingual education teacher, 1982–96, parent educator, 1995–97, English-as-a-second-language skills center teacher, 1996–97, elementary education teacher, 1997–99, reading specialist, starting 1999. California State University, Fullerton, guest instructor, 1997, model lesson teacher, 1998, adjunct professor of education, 1999–2003. Reading Teacher, member of review team, 1999, member of executive review board, beginning 1999. Presenter at elementary schools.
International Reading Association, National Council of Teachers of English, National Educators Association, National Education Association, National Association of Bilingual Educators, Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Southern California Council on Literature for Children and Young People, California Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, California Reading Association, Orange County Reading Association, Orange Unified Education Association.
Edwin Carr fellowship, California State University, Fullerton, 1999; finalist, Tomas Rivera Mexican-American Children's Book of the Year award, and Notable Book Award, National Council of Teachers of English, both 2000, both for My Name Is Jorge on Both Sides of the River; Américas Commended List, Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs, 2005, for The Dream on Blanca's Wall.
My Name Is Jorge on Both Sides of the River, illustrated by Fabricio Vanden Broeck, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 1999.
The Dream on Blanca's Wall: Poems in English and Spanish, illustrated by Robert Casilla, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2004.
Tomás Rivera (easy-reader biography), illustrated by Edward Martinez, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2004.
Contributor of articles to educational journals, including Language Arts and NEA Today, and to books, including Portfolios in the Classrooms. Contributor of poetry to children's anthologies, teachers' magazines, and journals.
Work in Progress
Mr. Feather Saves the Weather, The Magic Chili Pot, Pablo, Lily and Suzette, and "various poems, short stories, and picture books."
Growing up in Garden Grove, California, writer and teacher Jane Medina recalled in a Boyds Mills Press release that she began writing letters and poems while still a teenager. Sensitive to criticism from others, the budding poet refused to share her work with anyone but her closest friends. Then, while writing a letter to thank the editor of an inspiring instructional volume, Medina decided to enclose a short poem as well. "To my surprise," Medina explained, "the editor wrote back—not to thank me for the letter, but to ask if I had any more poetry." Soon after, Medina realized that she had a talent for capturing the emotions of children in verse, and she began work on the collection of children's poems that was eventually published as My Name Is Jorge on Both Sides of the River.
In My Name Is Jorge on Both Sides of the River, a book of poems written in both Spanish and English, Medina describes the thoughts and feelings of a young boy trying to adjust to life in the United States. After his family crosses the river from Mexico, Jorge finds himself in a different world. While his parents retain their Mexican traditions and way in their new country, Jorge is torn between fitting in with U.S. society and preserving his Mexican heritage. Throughout the collection of poems, Medina illustrates the challenges Jorge faces as he learns the language and customs of his adopted country. Describing the verses as "insightful," School Library Journal reviewer Ann Welton wrote that My Name Is Jorge on Both Sides of the River "depicts the sometimes painful experience of adjusting to a new language and a new culture." A reviewer for Horn Book praised the seriousness of Medina's collection, concluding: "Finally—bilingual poems that aren't overflowing with happy colors and tortilla chips."
Medina presents a second collection of bilingual poetry in The Dream on Blanca's Wall. Blanca is in sixth grade and hopes to become a teacher. Unfortunately, she is afraid to pursue her goal, and worries that she will never be able to accomplish it. With encouragement from her loving family, a neighbor, and an insightful teacher, Blanca strengthens her confidence in achieving her dream. Medina's poems serve as an "excellent … teaching tool, both as a pattern for writing verse and as a discussion starter," wrote Ann Welton in School Library Journal. A Kirkus Reviews contributor commented that the "easy-to-read free verse encourages even the reluctant reader" for both languages.
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In an article for Yellow Brick Road, Medina explained how affected she has been as a teacher recognizing the difficulties confronting the Spanish-speaking students in her classrooms. "I think things are getting better for immigrant children in today's schools," she commented. "I don't think they'll ever be perfect, but I think people are trying harder to accept one another and we're more aware of the sense of our forefathers and our past." Medina dedicated The Dream on Blanca's Wall to the faculty members in the College of Education at California State University—Fullerton who worked with her on her master's degree. "I think every student deserves to be encouraged by at least one teacher," she told Dateline contributor Valerie Orleans. "I was in my 40s before I found the teachers to encourage me. I am so thankful to them."
A noted Mexican-American writer and teacher is the subject of Medina's easy-reader biography, Tomás Rivera. As a child, Rivera toiled as a migrant worker alongside the other members of his family, harvesting crops on farms. Rivera's grandfather always told stories after the day's work. Learning of Rivera's love for stories, his grandfather took the boy to the public library; this experience led Rivera to begin writing his own tales and to his later career as an educator. Carolyn Phelan, writing in Booklist, found the biography to be "a good introduction to Rivera for young children."
Discussing the influences in her own life, Medina explained to SATA that many are reflected in her book The Dream on Blanca's Wall. "Blanca is just like me: she wants something so bad, so bad and she thinks she'll never get it. And, like me, she's blessed with something much greater than her ambition … she just doesn't realize it. Blanca [also] symbolizes many of my students who have dreams about their futures, dreams they think will never come true. Blanca dreams of becoming a teacher, but is afraid even to think too much about it. It's just impossible.
"Blanca has gifts that help her believe in her dream. But the gifts are, themselves, even better than what she desires. Blanca has a family who loves her, a neighbor who creates a friendship from their differences, and Blanca has one teacher—just one—who sees her abilities and believes in her. I am blessed in these same ways: a loving family, supportive friends, and teachers who believed in me.
"Yes, I believe Blanca will become a teacher someday … just as I became a children's author. But richer and sweeter than any dream come true is the love of the people who surround me."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, July, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of Tomás Rivera, p. 1851.
Dateline (University of California—Fullerton), May 19, 2005, "CSUF Alumna Dedicates Book to Education Faculty," p. 2.
Horn Book, July-December, 1999, review of My Name Is Jorge on Both Sides of the River, p. 153.
Instructor, October, 2001, Alice Quiocho, review of My Name Is Jorge on Both Sides of the River, p. 18.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2004, review of The Dream on Blanca's Wall, p. 334.
School Library Journal, February, 2000, Ann Welton, review of My Name Is Jorge on Both Sides of the River, p. 136; April, 2004, Ann Welton, review of The Dream on Blanca's Wall, p. 146.
Skipping Stones, September-October, 2005, review of The Dream on Blanca's Wall, p. 30.
Yellow Brick Road, November-December, 2004, "Jane Medina," pp. 1-3.
Press release from Boyds Mills Press, 1999.