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This hermeneutic phenomenological study explores the lived experience of Filipino American teachers in U.S. public schools. Grounded upon the tradition of hermeneutic phenomenology, the study is guided by philosophical works, including those of Heidegger, Gadamer, Merleau-Ponty, Arendt and Casey. Furthermore, I draw from Philippine and Filipino American scholarship, such as the writing of Enriquez, de Guia and David. In conducting this research, I follow van Manen’s methodological structure of six activities: turning to the phenomenon; investigating experience as we live it; reflecting on essential themes; writing and rewriting hermeneutically; maintaining a strong and oriented pedagogical relation; and balancing the research context by considering parts and whole.

The eight Filipino American teachers in this study have served as elementary, middle and high school teachers. Through one-on-one conversations, a collective group dialogue and in their reflective writing, their lived experiences of being racially and culturally misunderstood and the loss of native language emerged as essential themes. These revelations reflect the existentials of lived body and lived relation within the lifeworlds of Filipino American teachers. In addition, the role of place, namely that of the distinct and limited presence of Filipino American teachers in U.S. classrooms and on school campuses, unveils the aspect of lived space upon their existence.

The insights from this study can serve to inform teacher education programs, school districts and the Filipino American community. Recommendations call for incorporating the unique lived experiences of Filipino American teachers within curriculum and conversations regarding diversity, inclusion and teacher identity within colleges of education. In addition, the study asks for school district leaders and school site administrators to engage mindfully with and harken to the culturally silent voices of Filipino American teachers. Yet the call to listen deeply to Filipino American teachers is also directed towards the Filipino American community, as choosing to be a Filipino American teacher is an existence that is not readily embraced within Filipino American families and the community. Therefore, the study recommends that the dialogue on what it means to be a Filipino American teacher continues, with the aim of further moving forward our understanding of their lifeworlds.