French Teacher Brings Overseas Experience to Shaker

Helene Ameline has always found joy in teaching languages to teenagers. She has taught French in the United Kingdom and English in France. Now a French teacher at the high school, Ameline is realizing a short-term goal.

“I have wanted to work in the U.S. for two or three years,” she said. “I was an English teacher in France who has lived abroad. I wanted another teaching experience in an English-speaking country and to learn about the U.S.”

Ameline is teaching at Shaker courtesy of a partnership between Lycée Gustave Flaubert, the high school in France where she teaches English, and SHHS. Gustave Flaubert sent Ameline to SHHS to take the place of French teacher Suzanne Genillier, who is on a year-long sabbatical. Shaker’s Christopher Cotton took Ameline’s place as English teacher at Lyceé Flaubert.

“We’re very lucky to get people from both schools wanting to take part in the exchange,” Ameline said.

The teacher evaluation is less complicated in France …There are no SLO’s, and our evaluation was not related to the student performance.

— Helene Ameline

Ameline inherited her love of teaching from members of her family in the same profession. In college, she started to delve into both advanced English and French.

However, Ameline did not initially intend to pursue a career in education. “I really wanted to study English, but never thought I’d want to be a teacher,” she said. “It happened naturally.”

Ameline said her experience at Shaker has been positive so far. “It’s a wonderful environment, extremely supportive and helpful,” and “a very nice place to work,” she said.

Ameline has observed differences between French and American classrooms. In France, classes comprise 30-35 students, compared to the average Shaker class size of 23. Ameline said she likes smaller classes because “you find lots of different types of students working together.”

Ameline said she can turn to her fellow teachers, especially those in the world language department, for advice. “When you are in need,” she said, “there are people here to help you and make sure you have a good transition.”

Ameline has encountered few difficulties at Shaker, although she said she had to get “used to a whole new system.”

“There are common points between teaching languages in France, and in teaching languages here,” she said, “but the main differences are probably the evaluation systems. Being assessed as a teacher is completely different in France.”

“The teacher evaluation is less complicated in France,” Ameline said. Teachers’ assessments there are based mostly on “inspections” every five years in which a specialist in the subject area from outside the school observes a teacher. According to Ameline, the specialist observes the teacher for about an hour, writes up a report and assigns the teacher a grade. If the teacher receives a good grade, he or she might receive a promotion.

“There are no SLO’s, and our evaluation was not related to the student performance,” Ameline said.

It’s moving to hear American teenagers speak French … There’s something magical about it.

— Helene Ameline

Ameline said one of her main goals as a teacher is being supportive to her students by “not only teaching a subject matter, but helping them feel out what they want to do and who they want to be.”

Ameline believes secondary languages can be beneficial to students outside of school. “When you are able to speak a foreign language, even if it’s just a basic knowledge, this opens new doors,” she said.

“As U.S students, one may not think you need another language,” Ameline said. “You may need it, or it may just be a bonus. It helps if you’re interested in travel, applying to a university or a job you have later on. It’s not just about the language, it’s learning about other cultures and parts of the world.”

Ameline said she has been pleasantly surprised by the positive responses she has received to her teaching. “It’s moving to hear American teenagers speak French,” she said. “There’s something magical about it.”

This story is the latest entry in Spotlight’s ongoing “Meet the Newbies” series.

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