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Exemplary Programs with Distinction

St. Luke’s School, New Canaan, CT
Exemplary Program with Distinction
AATF member: Jonathan Shee

St. Luke’s School is a private country day school in New Canaan, CT that has no religious affiliation…and never has! St. Luke’s has 549 students in grades 512. Our teacher-to-student ratio is excellent, with about one teacher for every 8 or 9 students on average for each section.

In the 2014-15 school year, 106 middle schoolers and 91 upper schoolers studied French, which is a total of 197 students, or 39% of all students grades 612 who study French! (Note: 5th graders only take Latin)

As we are a small school, it is a wonderful thing that there are 3 full-time plus 2 part-time French teachers. Fortunately for our French program, we have always had plenty of resources at our disposal. Our budget has exceeded our demands every year. Technology items are always provided by the school without any difficulty, and we can update textbook series whenever we like. The school administration is highly supportive of the French program as are the parents and the students. There are three large French classrooms that are dedicated to French learning, and French students also use frequently our state-of-the-art digital language lab.

All teachers have a commitment to full immersion, French only environment, from the middle school through to the upper school. Students ask their questions in French, and English is not permitted in our classes. We are proud of our 100% French only environment. Our school is known in the area as having an innovative, successful French program, and “word gets out” thanks to the many presentations that our French teachers do locally, regionally, and nationally.

A few professional highlights about our French teachers are below:

  • All St. Luke’s French teachers are members of the AATF and attend at least one AATF event per year, though most of us attend most or all local AATF events.
  • Three of the St. Luke’s French teachers (Jon Shee, Amber Berry, and Evan Downey) are active Executive Board members of the Connecticut AATF Chapter. Jon Shee serves as President and Amber Berry is the Directrice du Grand Concours. Evan Downey helps organize many AATF events each year and is the key organizer of ourRéunion printanière.
  • Jon Shee is the Upper School World Languages Department Chair, and Amber Berry is the Middle School World Languages Department Chair. Together, they supervise a total of 11 other teachers.
  • Beth Yavenditti is the Director of Global Education at St. Luke’s and organizes our decade-old exchange program with St. Michel de Picpus in Paris, as well as other global programs. She has been teaching French ever since she arrived at St. Luke’s, but this year she is focusing on global-related courses.
  • Jon, Amber, and Evan have presented many conferences about French, world language learning, and technology, and Jon and Evan attended the national AATF conference in New Orleans last year.

As part of expansion efforts, over the past two years we have been actively encouraging students to study TWO world languages via media blasts, announcements, and public posters, and currently over 10% of our total student population in grades 7-12 take advantage of this fantastic opportunity. The majority of students taking two world languages have chosen French as one of their two courses.

Middle school students who demonstrate excellence in French have their own special, accelerated courses called French MS1 and French MS2, which are completely separate courses from those of their regular-level counterparts who take courses French A and French B. There is great articulation throughout our entire program, and the French team meets regularly to make sure that goals are met and that students are appropriately challenged while reaching benchmarks of mastery.

Here is the scope of classes that we offer, arranged by the typical paths of regular and accelerated/honors/AP students:

6th grade 6th grade French (1/2 year, daily study)
7th grade French A French MS1 = acceletated
8th grade French B French MS2 = accelerated
9th grade French 2 French 2 Honors
10th grade French 3 French 3 Honors
11th grade French 4 French 4 Honors
12th grade French 5 AP French Language & Culture

Given the fact that we are a smaller school, we are proud to be able to offer such a wide range of options with 15 separate sections of French (Note: This year, we even have two sections of Honors French 2).

At the top levels our numbers are very strong, considering the many other options that juniors and seniors can choose at our school. Many seniors are drawn to new electives in other subjects, and many of them must take required courses for our specialty diploma programs, so the fact that we still have so many seniors signed up for French (26%) is fantastic.

We are quite proud of the results for our top-level programs, as reflected by excellent AP scores and SAT 2 scores, as well as by students’ comfort with speaking only in the target language at all times and their regular willingness to take risks with the language. The grand majority of our seniors who complete our level 5 or AP classes graduate with at least basic fluency in the language, in that they can express themselves only in French in virtually any real life situation that they encounter. Many graduates exceed basic fluency standards and maintain their French skills over time.

Beyond seeing our students’ results through simple test scores, we have excellent success in terms of our alumni continuing on with French after graduation, either at college or at work. We receive regular emails from alumni saying how they have placed into higher level French classes at college, or how they are the most comfortable of their peers in terms of speaking French in their college classes.

Our teachers follow a highly student-centered model of teaching in which students can speak French as much as possible. We focus on creating the maximum amount of opportunities for small group work and pair work in order to allow students to communicate often (and comfortably) in virtually every lesson.

For four years now, regular one-on-one videoconferencing sessions with students abroad are part of many courses’ curricula, and provide students with the ultimate authentic experience in which to communicate with peers in the target language. Sessions follow a richly structured activity that is planned ahead of time between St. Luke’s teachers and the teachers abroad. Thanks to our videoconferencing work, we have created many long-lasting relationships with schools abroad. One great result was that Delphine Nicolas, a videoconferencing partner and English teacher from the Lycée de la Salle in Rennes, France, spent over a week on our campus last year as a visiting teacher in our French program.

We have given Le Grand Concours every year for at least 15 years. In addition to Le Grand Concours, we present the AATF Outstanding Senior in French Award each year, and we also send a nominee for the Connecticut-based “AATF Senior Prize.” Our French students often participate in the COLT Poetry Competition as well.

Cultural elements and travel are deeply integrated into our curriculum. We offer many real life cultural experiences to our students, such as guest speakers, workshops, French film evenings, French cooking lessons, trips abroad, and much more. Our middle school program offers a biannual trip to Québec that is incredibly popular. Middle school students also have done a full exchange program with a school in Toulouse in which students from France came to St. Luke’s for 2 weeks during the school year, and then our students went to Toulouse to do the same later in the year. Our upper school has a longstanding partnership with a private school in Paris, St. Michel de Picpus, and this year marks the 10th anniversary of our relationship. Every other year, we do a full exchange program with St. Michel de Picpus in which their students come to our campus for 2 weeks and then ours go to Paris in June for 2 weeks. This is an incredibly rich exchange program and it continues to thrive after a decade.

A major languagebased celebration at our school is called World Language Week, and it is a yearly event that usually takes place in late April. Though our students do get involved in National French Week activities (like this year, when we brought 138 students to the official Connecticut AATF Chapter National French Week event called Molière Than Thou), the French program puts a huge amount of effort into our involvement in World Language Week. French students in grades 6-12 engage in many different activities that draw the attention of the entire school. They write and/or recite French poems, they perform French skits, they dance in giant flash mobs to the tune of French pop music, they serve as teachers to their peers at “You-can-learn-French” booths, they help in pastry and cooking demos, they create videos that are shared on our big screens, they do presentations in French in front of the entire school, etc. We also invite to campus members of the Frenchspeaking community for various presentations and class visits during World Language Week.

Please visit our media gallery at: www.tinyurl.com/SLSAATF / http://www.stlukesct.org/

Pictured: Amber Berry, Beth Yavenditti, Jon Shee, Delphine Nicolas (visiting teacher from France), Evan Downey, Susan Sarrazin


Parker High School, Janesville, WI
Exemplary Program with Distinction
AATF member: Andrea Behn

The Janesville Parker French Program is a healthy program, but by no means perfect! When I took the French teacher position 8 years ago, I was nervous. I’d only had middle school experience, and I did not know where to begin. So I jumped in, just like I do with everything! I taught 5 sections and collaborated with the part-time teachers who taught 1-2 sections. The program has grown and by moving to a modified block schedule I know teach 6 section and my colleague teaches 3! I became very involved in the school, chaperoning dances, supervising athletic events, and attending concerts and shows. Students knew about French because I have a presence!

Janesville, Wisconsin has endured a lot the last 8 years. First we saw the closing of the GM plant in town, which affected everyone. Then Wisconsin faced many governmental challenges. Morale was affected and many wonderful teachers left the area, retired, or were laid off due to budget cuts. Additionally, at the beginning of my career at Parker, there were rumors that French, German, or both languages were going to be cut. They felt that neither language was relevant as “World War II languages.” We fought against this mind-set for several years, until in the end, German was cut and the the Chinese program from the elementary schools to the middle and high school levels was expanded.

Despite these challenges, I dug in and made collaboration my priority and learned from others what made their programs successful. I worked with my colleagues in the district, at both the high schools and the middle schools, as well as with other French teachers from around the state. As a professional, I truly believe that when things are going as you’d like, change something.

What Did We Implement to Increase Enrollment?

Super Français Award (inspired by Concordia Language Villages, borrowed from Karen Morgan): To add something positive and provide recognition for students, I began offering the Super Français Award. I selected a Super Espion for the quarter to choose a deserving classmate for being positive, trying new things, being a role model, sharing cultural information, and helping others. The Super Français didn’t need to be the best student in the class, but it did need to be someone who everyone would agree embodies all the good attributes of a French student.

New Courses and New Course Proposals: This year we added AP French and though there were only a few students, the enrollment has doubled for next year! I was approved to teach a dual-credit French course through the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, though we have not been able to run the class. We also proposed two new classes, Francophone Cinema and French Plus (a course to explore French in future careers). We have not been able to run either since moving to the block schedule. I’m hoping this changes in the future as students settle into the new schedule and realize they have many more options.

Cross-Cultural Classroom Connections (through University of Wisconsin-Madison): I’ve connected with a university student who is studying abroad for the year and she writes blogs about her experiences and answers our cultural questions. I’ve also had former students come and talk about their experiences with study abroad. My students love this!

Future Plans: In the last few years we have collaborated more with district schools, created a common curriculum, and worked on common assessments. In the future, we would like to align our curriculum to the AP exam and plan backward.

Exemplary Programs with Honors

Hopkins School, New Haven, CT
Exemplary Program with Honors
AATF member: Sarah DuPlessis

Hopkins School has had a long history of teaching French since its inception in 1660. Over those many years, French has been steady and favored by many. All French teachers at Hopkins are members of the AATF (with one also serving as a board member of the Connecticut AATF Chapter) and regularly attend local, state or national meetings. All students at Hopkins are expected to take a minimum of three years in one language at the high school level; however, many students take no less than 4, with many continuing to 5 or 6 if they began with French at the 7th grade level. As for enrollment, there are 29 junior school (7th & 8th graders) and a total of 104 students taking French at the high school level (from French 1-7 Honors). A total of 133 students take French out of a school enrollment of 712. Our program is rigorous and meets the students’ abilities, the sequence of courses is as follows: 7th (French A) & 8th (French B) grade–both A & B combined comprise a French 1 level course; French 1 (9th grade); French 2 or 2 Accelerated; French 3 or French 3 Accelerated; French 4 Literature and Cinema or French 4 Language and Civilization; French 5 Culture and Conversation or French 5 French Language & Culture AP. We also offer French 6 Honors and French 7 Honors (subject matter changes from year to year based on need and curriculum).

All courses are taught primarily (90% or more) in French, and adhere to standards-based learning. All levels also include various novels, plays, readers, bandes dessinées, and films. Besides the use of current newspapers, magazines, and novels, higher levels also employ Une Fois Pour Toutes.

Hopkins currently employs 5 French teachers, 3 full-time (all hold a Ph.D.) and 2 part-time. On a daily basis, students work in a variety of learning activities such as debates, group discussion, peer review editing, lab activities, scavenger hunts, museum exploration exercises, review games, etc. Speaking, writing, listening, and reading are incorporated into every class and culture is as equally valued as speaking and grammar skills. Lastly, every year, Hopkins administers the Grand Concours to all of our French students, levels 01-5.

We are very lucky at Hopkins to not only have wonderful teachers and students but wonderful parents as well! They are excited by our rigorous and creative classes, our class trips (to see speakers around Yale, to attend French plays at the Shubert or Yale), and our field trips to Quebec and Paris. Occasionally, we have parents who are French natives. They have visited classes on several occasions to talk about France, their history, or their company. Students and teachers alike enjoy these visits as it is a great opportunity to share and collaborate.

Future goals to expand the program:

  1. Provide more planning time for French teachers to discuss scope and sequence.
  2. Plan and implement one Francophone trip per school year: alternate Quebec and France, or other French-speaking regions
  3. Plan and implement community service opportunities abroad (Spring Break or summer)
  4. Create and distribute information about our French program to feeder schools
  5. Work closely with College Counseling and Alumni Office to monitor students’ continuation in learning French beyond Hopkins
  6. Commit all French teachers to attend a minimum of 3 AATF events a year and one regional/national event
  7. Promote our program via articles in the yearbook, school newspaper and school e-bulletin pertaining to French activities, trips and classroom learning.
  8. Schedule an annual “retreat” for all French teachers to discuss the current and future progress of the department

Specific Teacher Goals:

  1. All French teachers commit to attending no less than three AATF events, and one regional/national event per year
  2. At least every other year, all French teachers commit to attending a French program (such as Middlebury, Oxbridge, etc.) to improve their teaching, speaking and writing skills and to collaborate with other French teachers. Two of our teachers work every summer in Paris and should continue to do so.
  3. Attend informational sessions at Hopkins and during presentations at feeder schools to promote French language
  4. Schedule bi-monthly or more informal meetings to discuss ideas (how to increase French enrollment, plan for speakers, plan for field trips, trips abroad, French week, French holidays, etc.)
  5. Assign one teacher to be the liaison between college counseling and the alumni office to monitor the continuation of French language learning beyond Hopkins School

Special Program Features (we offer and have offered):

  • 2014 Trip to Quebec for 50 students in 7th & 8th grade
  • 2015 March, Trip to Paris France with 15 students, 8th-12th grades
  • 2011-2015, Celebration of French week—the entire school participates, the French club makes delicious treats, the cafeteria makes only French food, speakers come, French music is played at assemblies, French sayings are written on school sidewalks, French works of art are hung in our art gallery, crepe making for entire school, etc.
  • 2011-2015 (any prior to these years as well) Administration of the Grand Concours
  • Fashion Show (8th graders)
  • Scavenger Hunts (French 1, 2—when learning directions)
  • 2014, 5 students attended Oxbridge Academic programs (4 in Paris, 1 Montpellier)
  • 2013, 2 students study in France with SYA (Student Year Abroad)
  • Poetry Recitations and Participation in COLT
  • Dressing as famous poets, writers, bandes dessinés characters for Halloween
  • Field trips to Shubert Theatre, NYC, and New Haven to view French art or partake in French food
  • Hosts an annual AATF workshop on our campus—this year 35 members attended a technology workshop for French


Geneva Community High School, Geneva, IL
Exemplary Program with Honors
AATF member: Martha Behlow

What has made our program special? Most importantly, it is the students who are in our program. They are the reason that we continue to strive to share our passion for the French language and the cultures of the Francophone world. They have been our willing accomplices as we share a learning adventure, and work to mold global citizens.

  1. THE CLASSROOM, first and foremost! – it’s all about the learning, making it fun, relevant, proficiency based, as well as our ability to be “sales people” who continually share the value of learning French, to be multi-culturally aware citizens of the world and literate communicators. Students can begin world languages in 8th grade and continue through level V – Advanced Placement.
  2. French Club – our club is active, fun, and we welcome non-French students as well. Our student leaders have a strong voice in determining our events for the year, we offer “scholarships” to students who can’t afford our events (no questions asked), and our emphasis is on culture, especially food, games, and film. The club provides an opportunity for leadership experience, friendships, and involvement in our school.
  3. Société Honoraire de Français members are inducted in the fall and are expected to participate in French Club events and/or peer tutoring, national events including Le Grand Concours and the AP test, as well as chapter events such as ourJournée d’Immersion. For students whose work or sports schedules don’t permit as much involvement, I have a list of 25 opportunities for involvement, including projects which can be completed on their own. Senior SHF members “earn” their tassels, cords, and honor pin through their level of involvement and commitment. Again, students have opportunities for leadership as well and take an active role in running our organization.
  4. National French Week gives our program an opportunity to increase our visibility in the school. We play French music in the halls during passing periods; we participate in the national and chapter contests (videos, essays, trivia); students create Gazettes des Toilettes – eye-catching and informative postings which we put on the inside of all of our bathroom stalls and over our urinals. (I got this idea from our SADD club, which used to post Stall Street Journals!) Our students have had great success with video submissions, which leads to visibility in the community and on social media!
  5. Publicity and visibility in our school and community, Viking Vessel, Social Media – I have found that most of these outlets are hungry for our news. We just have to take the time to write up the news. I try to place an article with photos in our school newsletter, the Viking Vessel, multiple times per year. Our school district’s communications director is really helpful at spreading the good news when something exciting happens in our program – last spring, we had three BIG events – my colleague Pam Cabeen was awarded our chapter’s Prix du Chapitre, and I was thrilled to receive our county’s Regional Superintendent’s Educator of the Year Award, and our program was awarded Exemplary Program with Honors status … which was featured on our school district Web page for four weeks! The beautiful plaque we received from AATF has now been hung in our school, as well.
  6. Student travel opportunities help our students to witness history and culture firsthand and give them opportunities to use their language skills. We do a two-week European trip every other summer.
  7. Student hosting through Échanges Culturels Internationaux: French students come to the U.S. for three weeks, in both July and August, and we have ten to twenty students per year who host a French student. Some students go on to create lasting friendships with their French guests and communicate with them and continue to visit back and forth for many years.
  8. International Week is a time for collaboration, cooperation, and celebration with Spanish and German colleagues and students. We celebrate the languages, the world’s diversity, and generally, become as visible in school as Homecoming Week is. Open mic talent contests, international potlucks, poster contests, a flash mob, and even a video featuring our language students and teachers are among the events we have offered to our world language students at Geneva High School.
  9. Music and Culture are good ways to hook the students’ interest. We watch music videos, dance along with them, sing together, and I have a collection of children’s instruments which they love using as we make a joyful noise. Cultural awareness and learning helps the students to appreciate the world’s diversity through food, the arts, literature, and beyond.
  10. La Francophonie – We continually emphasize that French is more than FRANCE, but a whole world of possibilities. Project-based learning, service projects involving Heifer International, Les Médecins sans Frontières, H2O Africa, and beyond, link studies with service and global citizenship.
  11. Music videos and YouTube channel ~ Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? After being inspired by, of all people, an accounting teacher who made a video with his students, I thought, “If he can make accounting seem fun, think what WE can do with FRENCH!”
  12. Grants – We’ve taken advantage of our district’s generous opportunities through Geneva Academic Foundation, which has allowed us to bring cultural opportunities to our students including Tim Mooney’s one man show Molière than Thou (two times), Claudia Hommel’s “Paris in the 1950’s, a musical cabaret.” We invite other classes, including drama and music, to join us.
  13. Journée d’Immersion participation, gives our students the unique opportunity to participate with French students throughout the Chicago area in a full-day immersion opportunity. In addition, inspired by fellow French teacher Erin Gibbons, we have had our own do-it-yourself mini-immersions – three-hour events at our school which are easier for some students to fit into their schedules.
  14. Through our involvement in the AATF, attending meetings, becoming an officer, giving presentations, and attending and presenting at the Congrès national, our students benefit from their teachers having their ‘finger on the pulse’ of French education. Le Grand Concours, La Semaine du Français, Champions d’Expression, and our chapter’s stellar newsletter, Francofeuilles, editor Cathy Kendrigan, provide myriad opportunities for both teachers and students!
  15. Upcoming goals, including a new spectacle. Three years ago we performed an abbreviated version of Les Misérables (en français, bien sûr!) and invited parents to attend. It was right before the movie musical came out. This year … perhaps we can repeat our past success with Le Petit Prince? I will have a new colleague, Molly Shanahan, who has just graduated from college, so I’m sure that she will bring a dose of energy and enthusiasm to our program. Other goals? As Buzz Lightyear would say, “To infinity and beyond!” Use more travel photos in school PowerPoints? Parent newsletter once per month? Opening of school parent letter? Instagram? Scholarship for continuation? The sky’s the limit!


Chapel Hill High School, Chapel Hill, NC
Exemplary Program with Honors
AATF member: Christen Campbell

Although a French program has been present at Chapel Hill High School since the school’s origins fifty years ago—CHHS possesses one of the earliest charters of la Société Honoraire de Français—it experienced revitalization in recent years. As a high school French program, they must strive to meet the needs of students with a variety of prior French experience: students have options to study French throughout elementary and middle school. Chapel Hill High School must then prepare its students for collegiate classes, from which many chose to study abroad in Francophone countries such as Rwanda, Belgium, France, and Morocco. Graduates plan to continue using French in their careers in International Business, Public Health and Education. The French program does not merely meet these tasks but exceeds them.

Chapel Hill High School offers French 1, 2, 3, 4, AP, and 6, with many quantifiable accounts of success throughout all levels. There is complete participation in the National French Contest, with many students earning recognition from both the state and national AATF. This year a level 4C student placed 1st in the U.S. Students who excel in their French classes are invited to apply to the French National Honor Society, and the many honorees are inducted in an annual ceremony that also celebrates French culture and academic excellence. At the AP Level, 100% of students pass, with the average score over a 4.

Furthermore, students frequently take initiative to study French culture through the thriving, student-run French Club and French National Honor Society. The two clubs work together to spread French culture throughout the school. In the past, these activities have taken the form of a French cheese tasting, a “No-English” school dance, a monthly «Café Français», and an International Night produced with the help of other diverse student associations at the school. Every year, both clubs collaborate celebrating la Semaine de la francophonie, making posters promoting the value of the language, playing music over the school’s PA system, and writing inspiring French quotes in chalk around the school.

The French program also prides itself on its focus on the incorporation of French into different aspects of everyday life. Students in upper-level courses create personalized Web sites that they use as digital portfolios to document their learning and growth. This allows them to practice technological skills while learning new aspects of French. After reading Jean Giono’s L’Homme qui plantait des arbres, AP students planted a ginko tree at the school to improve the school environment. This year marks the 4th tree planted at the school by the AP French class. French teachers have implemented Understanding by Design Units to promote the acquisition of new performance tasks. Both Mme Campbell and Mme Mote are highly skilled professionals, each with a master’s degree in French. Mme Campbell earned her National Board certification this year, while also being recognized as the North Carolina AATF Teacher of the Year. Mme Mote has a lengthy career teaching French. CHHS’ French program prides itself in giving back to the community. The French Club has made it an annual tradition to run a school-wide canned food drive, which serves students and families in the community. The French National Honor Society organizes tutoring for lower level students and are required to tutor a student at least once a month.


Fairmont High School, Kettering, OH
Exemplary Program with Honors
AATF member: Mary Townsend

Fairmont High School in Kettering, Ohio is an International Baccalaureate Diploma School and on the College Board AP Honor Roll, offering 2400 students 35 AP and IB classes and college credit. Kettering City Schools is an Ohio Department of Education School District of Excellence with Distinction. This excellence can be found everywhere on campus: in the IB science labs, on the walls bedecked with student art, in the Calculus III classrooms, in our nationally recognized music program, in AP English classes, in IB seminars with international authors, and in our French, German, Latin, and Spanish classrooms. We are fortunate to have developed a culture of success where students believe they can achieve, regardless of their background or economic status.

Over the course of the past several years, the character of the French Department has changed. Becoming an IB school has expanded our school approach to global citizenship: becoming proficient in a world language is an important component of the international focus. Thus, preparing for successful IB assessments necessitated developing our French curriculum into a more substantial and rigorous offering. We updated our courses across all levels to increase learning in the four aspects of reading, writing, listening and speaking. We aligned the curriculum to include Ohio and National Standards as well as AP and IB global themes, and bolstered achievement goals all along the way. We speak in French at every opportunity in each level for comprehensible input. And this year, we welcome a full section of eighth graders enrolled in French to the high school, eventually increasing the language offering at Fairmont to a five-year program.

Technology is playing a greater role in the way we teach and students learn. All FHS classrooms are equipped with Smart boards and Ladibug projectors. Moreover, as part of our Race to the Top funding, all students are issued Chromebooks. The French Department recently received money through a local grant to purchase a library of almost 30 French and Francophone films on DVD for use in the classroom as well as for student check-out so they can watch and learn at their own pace. Activities include writing film reviews, re-enacting scenes, describing and developing characters, writing poems, changing endings — all providing subjects for meaningful class discussion. These activities can be adjusted for any level of learner.

From the novice level on, students practice their presentational and interpersonal skills with individual and group projects. While similar in nature, they are articulated, differentiated, and scaffolded based on student level. For example, French I students prepare a presentation on Paris monuments and then open the class to discussion. The following year they research and present on a region in France, including departments, important cities, natural resources, and cultural venues. In year three, students present the weather from a Francophone location, including conversion to metric for temperature and wind speed, researching facts about their Francophone region and signing off à la française. These projects lead to the culminating year four project of a major presentation of a Francophone country, including everything from how the area came to speak French, birth and literacy rates, politics, religions and languages spoken, geographical features, traditional cuisine and customs to their present-day challenges in the 21st-century world.

Throughout the year, Fairmont French students participate in AATF activities. In the fall, we celebrate National French Week by writing and submitting essays for the AATF annual essay contest. We festoon the room, enjoy traditional foods, and decorate the school display case. Each November, French IV students participate in Wright State University’s excellent Journée d’Immersion experience on campus.

In the winter, we prepare for and take the Grand Concours. This year, almost 200 FHS students took the AATF National French Contest. We are pleased that Fairmont had 13 national winners, 3 state/chapter honorees, and 28 honorable mentions; most students received Certificats de Réussite. Preparing for the Grand Concours helps the students fare better on all high-stakes tests; it acclimates them to the test culture and bolsters critical listening and thinking skills. Both the number of students taking the AP and IB exams and their scores have steadily improved.

In the spring, we tap and induct new members into the Société Honoraire de Français. This year, we also honored a senior student with the AATF Outstanding Senior in French Award. The AATF provides avenues for teachers to promote the significance of learning French as well as individually recognizing students for their achievements.

Fairmont has a vibrant French Club that offers various types of cultural and social activities. Some activities include our annual t-shirt design contest, cheese-tasting event, French movie nights, learning songs and dances, making (and eating!) traditional dishes and pastries, mini-plays, and celebrating French holidays. Following the tenets of the IB learner profile, we “adopt” children at Christmas and annually support local and international charities.

We host a “Day at the Museums” excursion, traveling to regional museums to see French works of art. For example, last year, we attended the Toledo Museum of Art where we saw “LeNôtre’s Gardens: Landscaper to the Kings” temporary exhibit and a great mosaic wall of Matisse among other notable works of art. We then continued on to the Detroit Institute of Art where we viewed their French and African collections and Rivera’s mural. This summer, the Club will visit our local Dayton Art Institute. We are already planning a cross-curricular trip with the IB Theatre class to visit the Art Institute of Chicago in the fall.

Every two years, French students travel overseas. I have developed a curriculum to accompany our trips, where students have the opportunity to research selected historical sites we will visit before departure, continue their research as we visit the venues, and then upon return produce a compendium of what they have learned. They receive a semester credit through our credit flex program. Fairmont High School is humbled by and grateful for the award of Exemplary with Honors bestowed on us by the AATF. My colleague Michele McCarty and I acknowledge our incredible French students and engaged parents, former Fairmont French teachers, support from the Ohio AATF Chapter and Ohio Foreign Language Association, and excellent leadership from the Wright State University French Department.


Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet High School, Nashville, TN
Exemplary Program with Honors
AATF member: Jane Weaver

The French program reflects the mission of MLK’s World Language Department, that is, “to teach and assist students in developing proficiency in another language in order for them to become successful in a multi-cultural world.” It is a five-to-six-year sequential program, beginning in seventh grade (MLK houses grades 7 through 12), although some students start their language later, depending when they enter the school. The French program has maintained steady enrollment for the past ten years. MLK gives students the opportunity to continue their studies of French through AP French Language and Culture. This has encouraged many to continue at university and, in most cases, at an advanced entrance level. Several graduates have chosen to study at universities in French-speaking countries, even if they were majoring in another subject. Some graduates have also used French in their careers, which include international business and government.

Instructional practices and assessments: A key instructional practice is MLK’s digital language lab. Installed in August 2014, the lab assists students in communication skills (speaking and listening) and allows for AP
testing in a digital environment, which provides enhanced quality of audio input and recordings of oral parts of the test. The funding for the language lab was provided by MLK’s PTSA, which evidences the support of faculty, parents and students for MLK’s World Language program.

Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) introduced a standards-based curriculum across the board three or four years ago entitled “Grading for Learning.” Grades are now only given for assessments, and students are allowed multiple opportunities to show that they have mastered a particular standard. (Mastery is set as a percentage by each department). The teacher uses practice assignments to give detailed feedback to the student before the student takes the assessment. Student self-assessments are also incorporated to show the teacher what the student thinks about his or her own performance, thereby encouraging ownership of learning and supporting intrinsic motivation.

Integrated Performance Assessments (IPA) are incorporated at all levels of language teaching and learning, sometimes only partially at novice levels. The three communication modes (interpretive, interpersonal and presentational) are used as categories for the high school grade book, with the four skills (reading, writing, speaking,
listening, plus “integrated” where more than one skill is assessed) for the middle school.

Sponsored by the AATF, the National French Contest (Le Grand Concours) allows students a unique opportunity to compete against their peers nationwide, thus providing national data in terms of their strengths and weaknesses. MLK has entered students in the contest (Levels 1 through 4 or 5 typically) for at least the past ten years.

Connecting students to outside resources:

Société honoraire de français (SHF) (established October 2007): Inductees into MLK’s SHF are typically in 9th grade, as their 8th grade High School Credit can be taken into account. Members of the SHF are expected to take part in one or more committees: Events, Fund-raising, Tutoring, Publicity, and the Club de français (CF). Meetings for all members of the SHF or for select committees are held regularly. SHF officers, elected each August, are invited to take the lead, and meetings are sometimes held in conjunction with the CF. Members of the SHF provide regular community service. Examples are weekly tutoring to younger students, spearheading National French Week, including fund-raising, CF meetings, la Semaine de la francophonie and World Language Week. Outside guest speakers, including Sister Cities of Nashville (SCN) are invited regularly to speak to the SHF, French Club and French classes, depending on the topic.

Three students have taken part in the SCN exchange to Caen over the past several years, and more have hosted students even if they were not able to travel to France themselves. Two of the students who traveled to Caen were recipients of an AATF Travel Award. In all, MLK students have been successful in three out of four Travel Award applications. Field trips for French classes and SHF members have been arranged almost every year, sometimes more than one, when the curriculum can be enhanced by outside events. Examples include dance troupes, exhibits, and visits to French restaurants. In April this year, members of the Nashville ballet worked with advanced French classes on how to portray ballet vocabulary via movement, thanks to a Tennessee Arts Commission grant.

Future goals:

  • Continue induction into MLK’s SHF where students are able to access outside resources to enhance their education in French language and culture;
  • Explore OPIc assessment for students in advanced classes, especially those who are planning to study French at college;
  • Consider applying for an academic charter for the new AATF (middle school) Jeunes amis du français;
  • Continue to explore the establishment of an MLK exchange program with a high school in a French-speaking region;
  • Continue to seek out opportunities for students to hone and improve their language skills though extracurricular activities, technological tools, and partnerships with other schools and educators;
  • Collaborate with other professionals on IPAs and how best to implement them effectively at all levels of language teaching and learning;
  • Seek out opportunities to enhance and support teacher’s content knowledge.


Vandegrift High School, Austin, TX
Exemplary Program with Honors
AATF member: Kelly Simon

Vandegrift High School opened in 2009 with French I. In 2010 when I began, French II and Pre-AP III were added. The following year, we had our first AP French class, and despite only offering Spanish in our district middle schools, upper levels have increased steadily each year.

My first year here at VHS, I formed the French Club. We take local field trips to places such as the French Legation, the Harry Ransom Center, Bob Bullock Museum, and other local museums with French-themed exhibits, as well as ending in a traditional crêperie for lunch. We also have bi-annual parties at a French restaurant in Austin. VHS French Club is one of the most active, longest-running clubs here on campus. We participate in National French Week and Adopt-a-Hallway here at school. We also participate in the Relay for Life yearly event held on campus in April. The French Club elects its own officers yearly, and students run it. When the Charlie Hebdo events unfolded, both the French Club and French Honor Society led campaigns in support of #jesuischarlie here on campus.

In 2013, we were funded by a local LEEF Grant to purchase French novels for levels two and three in order to supplement the textbooks and nurture reading comprehension in the target language.

French Honor Society students must attend at least 4 events/year in order to remain in good standing. We team up with the French Club to participate in Relay for Life. French Honor Society students also tutor underclassmen in French during our daily PIT (study hall) times as needed. Officer positions are elected yearly, and the organization is entirely student-led. We have an annual Induction ceremony in April.

I am an active member of the Central Texas AATF Chapter and try to attend at least one of their two meetings per academic year. Each year I nominate one Outstanding Senior to receive the AATF award.

I am an active member of the Texas Foreign Language Assocation (TFLA) and won a Rosemary Patterson Grant in 2013 where I studied for a week at Merici College in Québec City. I attended a week-long immersion workshop for Teachers of French as a Second Language.

In June 2013 I organized a student trip to Québec (6 students) and will again lead students in June 2015 to France (6 students).

To my knowledge, there have been several VHS alumni who have continued to study French at the college level. There are eight that I know of who are currently majoring or minoring in French. I am able to keep in contact with these students on a regular basis, and some of them make an appearance at least once/year to speak to my current seniors. They offer advice not only in French at the university level and the AP exams but also college life.

Beginning in the spring of 2015, we participated in a student exchange (pen pals, technology/lesson implementation, and homestays) with a high school in Lille, France. AP French is also participating in “Penpal Schools” which partners our class up with a similar one in France to exchange blogs, e-mails, etc.

We have a relationship with local Francophone tutors and parents. These volunteers set-up summer exchanges between our students and same-aged ones in France. I also have two French parents visit my AP class regularly to engage students in impromptu speaking situations.

We have hosted Le Grand Concours yearly on campus since 2012 when I began. We host an induction for la Société Honoraire de Français annually in April. Language practice is also provided with local native speakers who are guests in the classroom. Traditionally, VHS Grand Concours scores remain steady in the top 10-30% category at all levels. Each year there are at least 3-5 who receive medals for placing in the top 10%. Parents often volunteer to proctor the Grand Concours, and they donate ice cream for our traditional ice cream sundae party after the competition.

VHS future plans include expanding the program to have more than just two sections of level 1, which has been the traditional model. French Honor Society students attend 8th Grade Parent Orientation night in order to recruit underclassmen. We contact the middle school counselors on a regular basis each year, asking for their cooperation in educating 8th graders on the possibility of taking French 1 for credit. Spanish 1 is the only current LOTE course offered in our middle schools and has been for many years.

I try my best to adhere to the 90% rule of speaking French in all levels. Students are graded on participation which includes speaking French and not English. This is 20% of their overall grade. Student desks are paired-up so that everyone always has at least one partner for communication.

In the upper levels, students are required to do 45 minutes of outside listening to French and record it.

In each level for every chapter there is a memorized/impromptu skit in which all students must participate. These skits typically include the vocabulary, culture, & grammar of the chapter. All levels use court-métrages and other excerpts from numerous authentic sites such as Radio Canada, TV5, etc., as appropriate for each chapter with accompanying questions.

The Vandegrift High School French program is fortunate to have unwavering support from Administrators, parents, and community members. This includes our Superintendent, Dr. Bret Champion, and our Principal, Mr. Charlie Little. They have always supported and nurtured my passion for French and the students who are a part of our program.

I myself had an outstanding French teacher in high school and I never doubt the power of one person to change the world. As soon as I entered Madame Amo’s classroom as a freshman, I knew I had found my calling. She encouraged me and nurtured my talent in French. Her passion was contagious! When I was 15 years old I decided I would become a French teacher and spread this beautiful language to as many students as I could. I was privileged to then go on and student teach back in her classroom while in college. I carry on her legacy every day at Vandegrift High School where my French students are truly “sans pareil” (second to none).


Wakefield High School, Arlington, VA
Exemplary Program with Honors
AATF member: Kathryn Wheelock

Since 2009, Wakefield High School’s French program has been growing in numbers, in terms of activities, professional development for teachers, and student successes. Located just outside of Washington DC in Arlington, VA, a very diverse student population has benefitted from program offerings in French. Despite language offerings in more than 8 other languages, a robust French program continues to grow with two dedicated French teachers.

The majority of our students begin their French studies in 7th grade at one of our feeder middle schools: Kenmore (Arts & Communications Technology School), Jefferson (IB MYP), Gunston (Spanish Immersion focus). As a result, our largest enrollment exists at the French 3 level. Unlike other high schools who have been forced to move their level 1 and 2 classes on-line due to low enrollment, we have maintained several sections of the beginner classes at the high school level as well. Enrollment in AP French Language and Culture at our school is also boosted by fluent speakers of French who move into our school zone. Recently, we have welcomed heritage learners into our upper-level classes from Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Chad, and France. With administrative support, we were able to offer a post-AP class called Advanced Studies of French and hope to offer it as dual-enrollment with a local college in the future. Because our studies of French begin early for many students, we will also offer a French 5 class (pre-AP) to try to increase student success in AP, to improve retention, and better prepare students to continue with French at the university level. Since 2009 we have increased our class periods in French, and hope to continue to grow more over the next few years.

Professional development has helped us create more engaging, contemporary lessons for our students. With our close proximity to Washington, DC, we are able to profit from professional development offerings through the Embassy of France (Art in the FLE classroom, Storytelling in French). World Language Department Chair and French teacher Katy Wheelock studied at CAVILAM, in Vichy, France in July 2014 through a bourse (Stage Pédagogique de Courte Durée— SPCD) from the French government. She has also attended training on Modified Oral Proficiency Interviews (MOPI) through the Department of Education of Virginia and has attended professional conferences with ACTFL, AATF, MaFLA, and FLAVA. Last year she presented at FLAVA (with a presentation about the SPCD in Vichy, France) and this fall she will offer a presentation called “Invigorating your French Program with AATF.”

This is our first year with an active chapter of the Société Honoraire de Français (SHF). We inducted 24 students into our chapter with a formal evening event attended by parents and the Education Affairs Program Officer from the Embassy of France. Many students participated in our first Grand Concours as well, winning medals at the gold and silver level, with many bronze and honorable mentions. A French 4 student was accepted to Virginia’s Summer Governors’ Academy program for French; he was our first acceptance from the World Languages program in at least the last six school years. A freshman won an award for an essay for the SHF Creative Writing Contest. Two French 4 students wrote original poetry, which they then read aloud earlier during World Languages Week at a countywide public event. We are proud of our students who have been willing to take risks and push themselves to enter a variety of contests and events.

To bring the world into our classroom, we have worked over the last several years to have connections with various “experts” locally and from around the world. We maintain a relationship with our Sister City Committee (Arlington-Reims) for exchange opportunities to host or to travel to France. The French Club prepared welcome posters for the students and an American-style breakfast sponsored by the host parents made for a warm welcome to their day at Wakefield. The entire exchange was a great experience for both the French and American students. Many tears were shed as students said au revoir, but modern technology is keeping them in frequent contact with each other since their return to France.

Guest speakers such as the Director of the Canada Institute, Wilson Center and a Senegalese reporter with the Voice of America residing in Arlington have added to the typical classroom instruction. We maintained a Skype relationship with a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal to talk about her daily life, usage of French etc. Teacher Katy Wheelock also maintains contact with a teacher from Charleville-Mézières in the Reims region through a Memorandum of Understanding between the Virginia Department of Education and the Académie de Reims. Students share videos: personal introductions, tours of the school, in both French and English. Teachers share ideas and authentic resources to improve teaching techniques. A new idea to link Wakefield’s AP students with the French students TPE course is under consideration for the fall 2015.

Our World Languages Department organizes a biannual Declamation Contest, in late winter. All of our French students memorize poems in class, and the best three for each level are selected to present in a juried contest in front of nearly 600 students. Miss Virginia International, Kristyn Admire, a linguist herself, came to encourage students to continue their foreign language studies in the future at our last contest.

In conjunction with Wakefield’s annual Heritage Week celebrations, our students create displays from their francophone homes. One year, students shed their American clothes in favor of brightly colored pagnes, boubous, foulards, and chemises made from Sotiba fabric, and tye-died damask cloth, commonly-worn in Senegal, where Katy Wheelock spent a year as a Rotary Ambassdor. After putting on their Senegalese clothes, students pushed the desks to the side, washed their hands, sat on the floor, and enjoyed a meal of poulet yassa, eaten with their hands around the bowl, as is often done in Senegal. All students enjoyed the food, and it helped to bring to life their current studies on Racines et Ethnies. During the meal, students listened to African music, watched videos of Senegalese dances, and even tried some out, too!

Their experiences in class have led our French Honor Society to gain interest in establishing a service project or fundraiser in 2015-2016 to assist children in need in Senegal. We are very proud of our program but are looking forward to new challenges ahead. Ideally, we will do outreach to the middle schools to encourage participation in high school French, and we will maintain relationships with our graduates to promote French studies at the university level as well. Maintaining or growing our program while striving for increased proficiency of our students will lead us in our future endeavors.

Exemplary Programs

Cannon School, Concord, NC
Exemplary Program
AATF member: Sylvia Simard-Newman

Cannon School’s Upper School faculty includes Dr. Michelle Donah, Mrs. Sarah Miller, and Dr. Simard-Newman who received the North Carolina AATF Teacher of the Year and AATF Bourse d‘été in 2001. She received the AATF Dorothy S. Ludwig Excellence in Teaching Award and North Carolina AATF Concours Pédagogique in 2013.

Dr. Simard-Newman, Dr. Michelle Donah, and Mrs. Sarah Miller believe that teaching is one of the most honorable and powerful professions in the world. Teachers are in a position of great influence over young minds. Not only do they teach French, but also open the world to students. They teach them tolerance, diversity, globalization, and self-confidence in traveling the world. Cannon School is very proud of its students graduating from a strong program and being able to travel to a foreign country with the confidence of being able to speak the language. Students had the opportunity to take a class on Cajun culture and history and immerse themselves into the culture with a trip to Lafayette, LA. Students have also learned about a Francophone culture in Valdese, NC. They explored the small city, learned about their French heritage, and created a video to enter the contest sponsored by the Centre de la francophonie des Amériques. Cannon School also offers a current exchange program with a sister school in China and is developing a relationship with a sister school in France, the Institut Saint-Louis near La Rochelle. Next year will be the first year welcoming students from La Rochelle and visiting them in June 2016. Students are involved in penpal exchanges with schools in France. They also have the opportunity to travel to France or Canada every year. They attend a language school and use their language skills to immerse themselves into French culture. It also enables students to have the self-confidence to manage in a foreign setting. Many decide to continue learning French in their college education.

Cannon School offers beginner, intermediate, and advanced courses in French. Students study Francophone literature such as Une si longue lettre de Miriama Bâ, Un Papillon dans la cité de Gisèle Pineau, and Québécois short stories by Roch Carrier ou Gabrielle Roy. Students are also taught French and Francophone culture through films such as les Intouchables, Monsieur Lazhar, ou Welcome. Students view, analyze, and write assignments pertaining to AP French themes, including topics such as les défis mondiaux, la quête de soi, la famille et la communauté, la technologie et les sciences, l’esthétique, and la vie contemporaine. Students in advanced classes participate in the ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview. It is important to evaluate students’ oral proficiency levels and expect intermediate and advanced levels after four years of French studies.

Cannon School offers French I, II, III, IV, V, and AP. Cannon School is a laptop school where teachers can use computers and Smart boards, latest technology, software, and on-line textbooks. When Cannon School started the French program in high school, it included a small number of students. Today, it is a very strong discipline within the World Language Department. Cannon School hosted the North Carolina AATF spring conference on several occasions, which can be considered a great accomplishment and honor for the upper school.

Teachers are encouraged to participate in continuing professional education and share their knowledge with fellow teachers in the region. They also highly interested in teaching interdisciplinary courses with other departments such as history or arts. Cannon School offers a Winterm during which teachers can collaborate and teach world cultures. Cannon School is developing a global education program including ways to help students learn and immerse themselves into French and Francophone cultures. They participate in events organized by the World View Program in Chapel Hill or the World Affairs Council of Charlotte.

Cannon School has had a chapter of the AATF French Honor Society since 2001. An active group of students demonstrate passion and excellence in learning French language and culture. They help welcome new members during the annual induction ceremony and lead the French club. All French classes participate in the Grand Concours annually and receive excellent results. For National French Week, all classes decorate the World Language hall with French posters which they created on topics such as French-speaking regions, flags, Impressionist and Surrealist artists. Students also learn to make crêpes in the classroom and are encouraged to bring in French food. Students are very excited about the possibility of hosting a French student next year when they visit us in the spring 2016. Many are interested in visiting the Institut Saint-Louis in June 2016. This exchange program demonstrates Cannon School’s commitment to immerse students into French language and culture.

For more information: http://www.cannonschool.org/internationalprograms


Created: July 20, 2015
Last Update: August 27, 2020

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