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Fulbright-Hays grant helps Appalachian support French education in public schools

BOONE—If you think public school students are antsy for summer vacation to begin, consider their teachers, particularly 14 French teachers and teachers-in-training from across the state who will spend four weeks in Senegal, Africa, through a program offered by Appalachian State University.

senegal_group_m.jpgThis group of current and future public school teachers from across the state will travel to Senegal, Africa in July through a Fulbright-Hays grant to improve French language education in the state. The project is led by the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at Appalachian State University. (Appalachian photo by Tommy Penick)

The overseas experience is funded by the Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad Program, which supports overseas projects in training, research and curriculum development in modern foreign languages and area studies for teachers, students and university faculty.

The trip is being coordinated by faculty in Appalachian’s Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, housed in the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Office of International Education and Development.

“We are interested in improving the teaching of French in the state by making sure our French teachers are fully proficient in the language and really aware of the French-speaking world,” said Beverly Moser of the trip’s goals. “Because French programs often have smaller enrollments than Spanish language classes in the public schools, the French teachers often work in isolation in terms of their opportunity to practice their language skills with other French teachers. They desperately need outside opportunities to maintain their language skills so that they are really good representatives of speakers of French.”

Moser and Michael Lane co-wrote the proposal for the trip. Moser is an associate professor of German at Appalachian and director of the university’s Master of Arts in romance languages. Lane is an associate professor of French and francophone studies at Appalachian.

While immersed in the French-speaking country for four weeks, the teachers will learn about the culture, history and life ways of Senegal. When they return, they will develop outreach projects to present at state or regional conferences and projects to share with students and other teachers at their schools.

“It’s a rigorous program,” said Lane. Lane and Martial Frindéthié will co-lead the trip. Frindéthié also is an associate professor of French and francophone studies at Appalachian.

Funding from the Fulbright Hays program totals $91,373. This covers expenses associated with travel, subsistence and admission to cultural programs as well as a full year of activities to complement what the teachers learn while overseas and that will allow others to benefit from their experiences, Moser explained.

Teachers selected for the project are from Durham School of the Arts and Sherwood Githens Middle School in Durham, Cedar Ridge High School and Orange High School in Hillsborough, Burns High School in Lawndale, Ronald Reagan High School in Pfafftown, Roanoke Rapids High School in Roanoke Rapids, West Craven High School in Vanceboro, Washington High School in Washington, and Eugene Ashley High School in Wilmington.

Also participating in the trip are two education majors from Appalachian.

The teachers and students will pay tuition for six hours of graduate credit plus expenses not covered by the grant, including travel insurance and immunizations and spending money.

It’s the first university-sponsored trip to Senegal but probably won’t be the last as the country offers many opportunities for future undergraduate and graduate study abroad programs focusing on French or in global studies or peace and justice studies.

“If we are going to focus on globalization at Appalachian, we can’t ignore West and Central Africa which a majority of the French-speaking world,” Lane explained.

“This experience of being in Senegal, seeing the educational system and visiting families there and then bringing that experience back to the classroom will be a life-altering experience for them as well as students who are in their classes,” Moser said.