AATF EXEMPLARY PROGRAMS FOR 2022
Glacier High School, Kalispell, Montana
Exemplary Program with Honors
AATF member: Stephanie Hill
Highland Regional High School, Collingswood, New Jersey
Exemplary Program with Honors
AATF member: Elizabeth McGrath
Bonjour! My name is Elizabeth McGrath, and I am the French teacher at Highland Regional High School in southern New Jersey. I started working at Highland in 2009, where our program offers French One, Two, Three Honors and Four Honors. I studied abroad in the south of France and have a Masters degree in the Art of Teaching French, and I was honored as Highland High School’s Teacher of the Year in 2021-2022. Students come to Highland from two different middle schools in a different school district, and have generally had only a few weeks of introduction to the French language and culture. There are three high schools in the district, and I am so fortunate to work with two other amazing French teachers, as well as the awesome Spanish and Italian teachers in my building. One of the things that has made my teaching career so rewarding is the opportunities to share and collaborate with all of my colleagues. They inspire me every day to do more for my students.
Although students enter Highland with little French experience, they are quickly thrown into a communicative-based curriculum where they are encouraged to explore the language, take risks, and make mistakes. All the world language teachers here at Highland work closely to create engaging, student-centered activities that encourage students to use the language as much as possible. Just over ten years ago, the French program was dwindling, with Levels 3 and 4 Honors combined in one class. Now there are six classes of French across four levels, due in part to a shifting curriculum that embraces ACTFL standards and best practices. We rewrote the curriculum over the course of the past five years, shifting to IPA-style assessments and a strong emphasis on what students Can Do with the language. Units are thematic in nature with performance-based assessments using rubrics created from ACTFL models.
Despite the French Club being cut from the budget five years ago, and the inability to travel with students abroad, I have made all possible attempts to engage our French students as well as our entire school with the Francophone language and culture. Highland has hosted exchange students three times for a 10 day stay in the south jersey region. Students participate in the Grand Concours, Société Honoraire de Français, National French Week, National Foreign Language Week, and most recently we experienced the excitement that is Manie Musicale! In an effort to connect with our sending school, this year students in Level 3 Honors took a trip to the middle school to act out Francophone fairy tales for students exploring French in grades 6-8. Our seniors also sit for the AAPPL, with more students each year earning the Seal of Biliteracy for the State of New Jersey.
Everyone in the World Language Department at Highland is proud of the success of our French program, and honored to receive this recognition from AATF. My students make me very proud each day!
St. Luke’s School, New Canaan, CT
Exemplary Program with Distinction
AATF member: Jon Shee
- Jon Shee – 28 years teaching French, 24 years at St. Luke’s • Upper School World Language Chair
- Susan Sarrazin – 23 years teaching French, 9 years at St. Luke’s • Middle School World Language Chair
- Evan Downey – 16 years teaching French, 10 years at St. Luke’s • Upper School French teacher
- Cynthia Badan– 8 years teaching French, 5th year at St. Luke’s • Middle School French teacher
- Amber Berry – 15 years teaching French, 12 years at St. Luke’s • MS WL Co-Chair • Head of Middle School
- Beth Yavenditti – 14 years teaching French, 17 years at St. Luke’s • Director of Global Education
All teachers have a commitment to a 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.
Our teacher-to-student ratio is excellent, with about one teacher for every 9 students on average for each section.
The school administration is highly supportive of the French program, as are the parents and the students.
Given the fact that we are a smaller school, we are proud to be able to offer such a wide range of options with 13 separate sections (and 14 classes) of French in grades 7-12 plus 4 sections of 6th grade French.
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. Multiple recent grads are currently minoring or majoring in French, which is always a delight to learn from them when they email us updates or visit.
For 11 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. We have a very successful videoconferencing partnership with Lycée Pardailhan in Auch, France.
Our Upper School has a long-standing partnership with a private school in Paris, Saint Michel de Picpus, and despite some years off due to Covid, this year marked the 15th anniversary of our relationship, making it our longest running exchange program. We also run a Middle School trip to Québec, when possible.
St. Luke’s has been an innovator in terms of blended and project-based learning in World Languages. As part of expansion efforts, we created and launched a program called “World Language Learning Online” or “W.L.L.O.”, in which students may cover the content of a full level one French course at their own pace.
In addition to Le Grand Concours, we present the AATF Outstanding Senior in French award each year and we also send nominees for the Connecticut-based “AATF CT Tom Betts Senior Prize” and the “AATF CT Alberta Conte Junior Prize.” Since 2016, our French students have won one of these statewide prizes 4 times. Last year, a French student senior won the $4000 ASFAP high school national scholarship. Our French students participate in the Connecticut-based COLT Poetry Competition as well, and often win medals. Three of our students/classes earned top medals in the AATF Media/Video Contest last year, as well.
Our French team gets very excited about National French Week each year. We do special classroom activities, but also work hard to get the community involved. In particular, we decorate many of the public spaces, offer fun activities during lunch periods, and do presentations in front of the entire student body. Another major language-based celebration at our school is called World Language Week and it is a yearly event that usually takes place in late April. The French program puts a huge amount of effort into World Language Week, as well.
Our French program offers other events for students that involve leaving campus. For example, French 4 students read Gaston Leroux’s novel “Le Fantôme de l’opéra” every year, so Jon Shee takes students to Broadway each spring to see the melodramatic masterpiece live, when Covid is not an issue. We attended the Alliance Française of Greenwich’s Focus on French Cinema event for local French students and took a group of Middle Schoolers to NYC to explore French- and WWII-related art topics at the Neue Museum. All teachers are active members of the AATF and most attend at least one AATF event per year, though many of us attend most or all local AATF events. Visit www.aatfct.org/aatf-ct-events to see pictures of our AATF involvement.
John Jay Senior High School, Hopewell Junction, NY
AATF member: Amy Stacchini
John Jay Senior High School in Hopewell Junction, NY is extremely proud and grateful to have been recognized for its Exemplary French Program. Over the past twenty years the
program has almost doubled in size. Beginning in seventh grade we offer students the opportunity to study levels 1-5AP. In their Senior year students have the option of taking the Advanced Placement exam with We Service recognition and in addition, can pursue the New York State Seal of Biliteracy.
Over the years, our French students have worked together to create many memorable experiences for themselves, and for others to celebrate the French language. In the past, upper level French students have enjoyed visiting third, sixth and ninth grade classes to help encourage and instill the love of the French language and francophone cultures. Our French classes have participated in the Manie Musicale, Le Grand Concours, and the National French Week Trivia Contest. We often visit the nearby Bocuse Restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America for an authentic French meal. In class, students have enjoyed engaging activities such as virtual field trips to Monet’s house in Giverny or to the Musé de l’Orangerie to look at the Nymphéas. Students have watched the ceremony at the Panthéon for Joséphine Baker and have seen the French presidential debates and victory speech of Macron. The students participated in their own mock French elections and celebrated La Chandeleur with crepes, Mardi Gras with galettes des rois and Christmas with bûches de Noël. All of these wonderful cultural experiences are embedded within the six AP themes and ACTFL World Readiness standards.
As part of their service project to earn the WE Service designation, our AP students learned and researched the effects of poverty in education. We focused on Haiti and the effects that poverty, politics and natural disasters have had on its educational system. To help eradicate poverty in Haiti, we partnered with a local French bakery and sold macarons to our families, friends, students, and staff and donated proceeds to Haiti through a local community organization.
Our Marquis de Lafayette chapter of the Société Nationale de Français is currently finishing its sixth year and has 73 members. Students participate in various activities suchas meme contests, crepe making, adopt-a-family, bake sales and scavenger hunts. Together with our other languages, we promote the appreciation of all languages and cultures with our annual Holidays Around the World, showcasing food and traditions of various countries. The future goal of the French program is to continue to grow and to inspire others to respect diversity and other cultures while cultivating the skills required to succeed in the 21st century.
South Iredell High School, Statesville, NC
AATF member: Bonnie Estes
Last update: December 8, 2022