ATHENS, Ohio (June 9, 2006) -- The French government has awarded teaching assistantships to eight Ohio University students and alumni for the 2006-07 school year. Recipients include Kathryne Adair and Cara DiBlasi, second-year master's students of French literature; Kimberly Fell, a senior double-majoring in French and German; Laura Powell, a senior double-majoring in French and Communication and Public Advocacy; Jennifer Ulicky, a senior French major; Adam Hart, BA, '05; Charles Schwartz, a senior double-majoring in French and economics; and Alexis Taylor, a senior international studies major with a minor in French.
"Eight is the highest number of French Government Teaching Assistants that Ohio University has seen in one year," said Lois Vines, professor of French and coordinator of the French Government Teaching Assistantship program at Ohio University. "I'm pleased that so many qualified students applied and were accepted."
The program employs teaching assistants from all over the world. Recipients receive a work permit for between seven to nine months, an $800-$900 monthly stipend and health benefits to teach English 12 hours per week. Assistantships are available in different districts all over France.
"During this tense time between France and the United States, I think it's helpful to get Americans over there to work on a positive individual level," Vines said, "and the teachers' assistants from Ohio University have been very fine ambassadors.
"The day the application had to be postmarked, I was running around doing a million things," Fell said. "We had to get a physical, two letters of recommendation and write several essays in French, among other things." Fell, who will teach English at l'Academie d'Orléans/Tours next year, studied abroad previously in Leipzig, Germany, and Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.
"As an undergraduate, I volunteered for a short time at West Elementary school teaching French to a fifth grade class," DiBlasi said. "As a French TA in the master's program, I have been teaching French at the university level for the past two years." In addition to her classroom experience, DiBlasi has tutored French to three children for the past year and a half. She also studied in Grenoble, France, in 2002.
People, more than the class work and experience, can be powerful motivators both home and abroad. In Powell's case, the confidence came from her academic mentors. "I have had several great professors and advisers who encouraged me along the way and helped me realize that if I wanted to graduate and just go to France to teach, then I could," she said. Powell spent a quarter in Tours, France, during her sophomore year, and she chose to return in order to perfect her French language skills. Powell will teach in Besançon next year.
Students apply to this program for many reasons, but a love of French culture seems to motivate all.
"I have never eaten so much good food as I did last summer – straight from the garden each meal," said Ulicky, who spent 10 weeks working as an au pair last summer for a family in France. "I learned this great phrase in French that means: not just yet. That's how they live their lives, and I love it." Ulicky also spent a quarter her sophomore year in Tours, France. She will teach in Bordeaux next year.
The recipients also look forward to further honing their teaching skills
"In teaching, every day is different," said Adair, who made her first trip to France through an exchange program in fifth grade. "The dynamic in a class changes daily, weekly and yearly, so there's room for improvement and change." Adair has been teaching French for two years at Ohio University and will complete her certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language this summer. As an undergraduate, she studied in Montpellier, and she assisted Ohio University's education abroad program in Tours, France, last spring.
According to Vines, the most important benefit of the French Government Teaching Assistantship program is that it enhances cross-cultural exchange and appreciation.
"They learn so much about French culture, and they all want to go back," she said. "We're all fed on stereotypes given to us by the media, but because of these students' language ability, they can get to know how the people really are."
Vines discovered the program through a link on the French Embassy Web site about ten years ago and began helping Ohio University students apply. To be eligible, students must demonstrate conversational fluency in French in addition to completing a lengthy application process. Ideal candidates have experience teaching or working with children.
To prepare students early, Vines holds a meeting each fall and invites all students of French. Although most French Government Teaching Assistants participate after their senior year or following graduate school, students should start early to qualify for the program, Vines said. She recommends that students gain as much experience as possible, whether by studying abroad or by teaching French locally.
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