Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
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Vive la France

Senior lands French Government English Teaching Assistantship

Breanna Lynch traces her love of the French language to when she was 12 years old and learned a collection of words and phrases from her older sister, Stephanie.

The early tutorial gave the East Greenwich, R.I., resident an edge in middle school French classes, and her appreciation for Francophone culture has only grown.

“I remember my first day of class, I asked 'Est-ce que je peux aller aux toilettes?' (Can I go to the bathroom?) to my astounded teacher," she said. "The language came to me easily and I loved the way it was like a puzzle—matching the gender and number of adjectives to nouns, the conjugation of verbs.”

Next year, Lynch will take the next step in her journey, living and working in France for a year, thanks to a French Government English Teaching Assistantship award. The French studies major expects to work in a school in the Upper Normandy region.

“I’m so happy to be placed there,” said Lynch, who describes herself as nearly fluent in speaking French already. “It was my first choice. I've done some projects on Normandy in both high school and college, and I've always wanted to visit the region. I'll be placed either at a ‘collège’ (middle school) or a ‘lycée’ (high school).”

Having been to France just once before, for a few days on a family trip, Lynch has a long list of things she hopes to see and do while she is living and working there. 

“I took [Professor] Evelyn Staudinger's class 'Castles & Cathedrals,' so I would love to see the cathedrals in Reims, Amiens, Strasbourg, Notre-Dame de Paris and, of course, Chartres.

“I’ve also taken a French architecture class with [Professor] Cécile Danehy, so now I have to go see le Musée d'Orsay, le Centre Pompidou, a bunch of Cistercian abbeys, the Louvre, a bunch of châteaux, and Versailles,” she said. “I basically want to do and see everything during my time there. I'm also hoping to have time to visit some other countries in Europe as well.”

The teaching assistantship award will not only allow Lynch to immerse herself in French culture, but it will also enable her to apply the teaching skills that she has developed through her second major in secondary education and the teaching experiences she has had in secondary schools near the Wheaton campus.

"My secondary education major is just as important to me as my French major," she said. "I want to have the same inspirational impact on students that my French teacher in high school had on me."

Toward that end, Lynch is particularly interested in developing her ability to spark student interest in learning.

"I’ve learned during my various experiences in an educator role that students learn so much better if they're interested in what they're learning. I once brought in Harry Potter books to a middle school class and they were so excited to try to read them even though the French was difficult," she said. "Making learning relevant is important, too. Learning how to interact in real-life situations is much more interesting than learning obscure sets of vocabulary."

This semester, Lynch has been a student teacher, assisting the supervising teacher and leading several French classes in Foxborough’s Ahern Middle School.

“I’ve been learning everything from setting up and maintaining a grade book to dealing with struggling students,” she said, noting that developing the craft of an educator requires practice. “Everyone has been a student, but not everyone knows how much effort goes into planning lessons and maintaining a classroom.”