Margaret Corbett

My love of the French language began in grade four, the first year that French was part of the curriculum. I fondly remember our little magnetic board with felt characters that we were introduced to each week. We would all learn the dialogue of the week and then get up and recite it in front of the class at the end of the week. For some reason, I was never nervous about this. It all seemed to come naturally and I looked forward to all the new words I learned each week. Throughout the rest of my schooling my love of the French language and culture grew deeper. But it was truly in grade twelve that I was most inspired.

My grade twelve teacher was Pat Goulart, a well-respected French teacher in the province. She was a gifted teacher who instilled in me an even greater appreciation and love of French. I recall a discussion one day in class where we all talked about our chosen career paths. Most of my class had decided on being lawyers and doctors and maybe engineers. I remember that teaching had occurred to me at the time, but I felt intimidated to mention this amongst my classmates for fear that it was not a worthy profession in comparison to what they had already voiced. I instead said that I was planning on being a social worker. At the end of the class Madame Goulart asked if I had ever considered teaching. I reluctantly admitted that I had indeed thought about being a French teacher. She went on to encourage me telling me that she really felt that I would make a great teacher and that I should give serious thought to the career.

As the year progressed, her words rang over in my ears. This was a woman that I respected and she clearly loved her job. I also remember sitting in my classroom one day looking at a poster on the wall. It showed the whole globe with Anglophone areas highlighted in blue and francophone areas highlighted in green. The message was that if you spoke French, you would be able to communicate with that much more of the world. This really struck me as I thought about it. How could anyone not pursue the study of French?

I entered Memorial the following September in 1987. I still battled a little with my course in life, although I was certain that French would be some part of it. By the end of the first semester, I was completely sure of what I wanted to do. I knew that I was meant to be a French teacher and since then I have never looked back. I felt at ease with the language and I loved to learn about the culture. A true Francophile was born! I declared my major and then applied to education. I did my B.A. and B.Ed. concurrently. One of the most memorable times of my five years at MUN was my semester in Saint-Pierre. This was not only a rewarding semester, but also life-changing. We all learned so much in just one semester and we made life-long friends. Although we did not all choose to be teachers, we all saw the value of being bilingual in a bilingual country. It is an asset regardless of the career you choose.

Over the years I have worked in three different schools. I first taught Core French at Beaconsfield High School in a four-month replacement, then Core French and Immersion at Holy Heart for three years. I have been working at Holy Spirit for twelve years teaching Core French and Immersion and I am now the Department Head. I truly love what I do and can easily see myself doing this for the next fourteen years.

If I can instill in my students an appreciation of the French language and culture and give them a desire to speak the language, then I feel that I have succeeded. I do not necessarily hope to produce twenty new French teachers every year; I just hope to produce students who are passionate about French and who will use it throughout their lives regardless of the career they choose. I tell my students each year that the main reason for studying French should not be to get a better job; it should instead stem from a genuine interest to communicate with a greater percentage of the world and to appreciate another culture.

Whenever anyone asks me if I had my time back if I would choose to be a French teacher, I can confidently answer that I would not change a thing. I am proud of a profession where I know that I can make a difference and where I am rewarded on a daily basis. Vive le français!