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The number one thing to know about me professionally is – I love speaking other languages, especially French!!!
My dad was in the Army and we moved to Belgium when I was 13 1/2. I finished up 8th grade in one of those Army schools. The guidance counselor put me into French 1 in January when we moved, although I hadn’t had 1st semester French. I don’t remember anything about French, except that the teacher claimed he was one of the original Beach Boys. My parents and I made the decision to enroll me into a local Belgian, French-speaking school for my 9th grade year. They had a few international students already and the Proviseur/principal seemed to think that I would catch on quick enough. So 9th grade was a total immersion experience. I sat next to a British girl and asked her constantly for the first month, “What did he/she say?” I translated all my textbooks each night, writing the English word above each French word I didn’t know. About 6 months into the year, I actually started to speak French, although I caught on to what was going on around me much quicker. I had Biology, Algebra, Geometry, Accounting, History, PE, French and German all in French. French class was French literature – reading and writing.
Then we moved to Germany for my 10th grade year and I went back into the American school system. My last two years of high school were at Hampton High (boring!!). I went to the University of Virginia on a ROTC scholarship. Although I majored in Russian Studies and Foreign Affairs, I also took French and German classes. The summer after my 2nd year at UVa, I wrote to a small hotel in the French-speaking part of Switzerland and asked for a job. A friend of my grandmother’s had stayed there and told me they always had a young girl as a maid/waitress. They wrote back and said, ‘Viens! (come!) ‘ and I flew over and spent 3 months speaking French each day and learning how to clean and serve.
After graduating from U.Va, I served 5 years in Military Intelligence. Michael and I were stationed in Germany (practiced my German) and in Arizona. We then worked a business together. I would always take French classes or find a circle of women who wanted to practice French, whether we lived in California, England or Germany. But once we were back in Virginia and Wes was 1 and Graham was 6, I decided to get certified to teach French & German through CNU. I student-taught at Denbigh HS and spent my first 2 years teaching in Portsmouth. My 3rd year was at Gildersleeve Middle School in Newport News. Then Hampton Roads Academy hired me the same year Graham entered. I spent 12 years at HRA and saw both Graham & Wes graduate. I took kids on 4 trips to Québec and 2 trips to France.
My entire family has some kind of connection with languages. Graham worked with Rosetta Stone for 3 years as an audio engineer and Wes majored in French at West Point. My husband speaks German and is always working on French. Even our cats understand some French (tu veux sortir? do you want to go out?) So foreign languages have always been part of our family’s life.
I am delighted to share my passion for French with students at Summit! The method I use is similar to how we all learned our mother tongue. Your parents successfully taught you to speak by the age of 3, right? This system is similar to ‘Mommy Talk’. It’s right-brain- based because it relies on comprehensible, repetitive and interesting (hence the storytelling) input. We aren’t learning rules, but acquiring language to use. Why take French unless you want to understand and speak it!
I am equally passionate about this method (TPRS – Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) as I am about French. I am constantly working on my skills, so as to best teach my students.
Thanks for reading! and I hope you find a life’s work about which you can be passionate as well!