Ellen Francese

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Ellen Francese's teaching career spans over 30 years. Primarily a college professor, she has taught art to students of all ages as well as English to sixth graders and troubled teens. She has taught English and artistry classes at Berklee College of Music since 2006. As Berklee’s international population has grown, she has more recently been supporting these students both inside and outside her English as a second language classes.

Francese’s other interest at Berklee is developing programs for local and global citizenship. Her service learning projects have taken place in Latino neighborhoods and teen lockup facilities. Students have fulfilled their Act of Kindness projects by giving music lessons to the homeless, performing concerts at nursing homes, writing music for nonprofit websites, cleaning up an old recording of an elderly musician’s music, and bringing an instrument petting zoo to immigrant preschoolers. She has received Berklee’s first Urban Service Award for her commitment to fostering student social responsibility and the Dean’s Award for excellence in teaching.

  • Awards
    • Berklee Urban Service Award
    • Dean's Award for excellence in teaching
  • Education
    • B.A., Bard College
    • M.A., Simmons College

In Their Own Words

"My role as teacher is to be a facilitator. I don't lecture; I don't like it, and I can't imagine my students would like it, either. My role is also to create a safe environment for my students to take risks, open up, share their ideas, and believe that what they have to say is worthy. To start a discussion I'll show them something as a catalyst, maybe lead them off with a word or two, then say, 'Here you go; wrestle with it,' and sit back and watch. And that's really how it should be."

"Interconnectedness is really the crux of what I teach. I always try to connect music to what we're studying in College Writing I and II. An essay or story, for example, is similar in process, intent, and purpose to a musical composition. We talk about thinking of the audience as we write, about the 'tone' of a piece, and about creating rhythm through the variety of sentences."

"In Writing I, we study nonfiction and literature, which I relate to music and art to show that music is just one piece of culture. When we study music, art, essays, and stories created during World War II, for example, we look at everything through the lense of what was going on for each artist at that time. Students become more aware of who they are as artists and what influences them. More than anything else, I want students to be able to make those connections."

"I also want my students to be able to look at a subject from different points of view. In a recent class, for example, students read aloud the thesis statements they wrote in a comparison of two works of literature. As everyone listened to each other's statements, I heard comments like, 'Wow, that's a completely different angle from what I saw.' You have to 'walk around' something and see it from all angles to be able to say you understand it."