Michelle Hartley

My studies in French began at the age of 5, and I have always felt most fortunate to have been placed in the French Immersion Program at my primary school in Stephenville, NL. I still remember the first days when I met my classmates with whom I would spend the following 12 years. Eventually, having shared many classrooms with this group of unforgettable friends, it was inevitable that the line between friendship and kinship began to dissolve amongst us. Together, our exploration of a new culture and language brought us closer together and made our time together all the more special and memorable.

The early Immersion program was only the beginning of my French experiences however, and it was not until high school and University that I would realize how studies in the field could lead to a lifetime of personal enjoyment and enrichment. An early trip to Old Quebec city in grade 9 quickly opened my eyes to another way of life that I never knew existed. It was this way of life that immediately transformed a mere interest in the language to an overwhelming passion for the language and culture. From that moment on, it was my goal to further my studies in the French language, and I did so by completing a minor in Strasbourg, France during my undergraduate years.

Immersing myself entirely into the culture was exhilarating and mind-altering to say the least, and every day was filled with new adventures. Although a thorough description of my overall experience would be far too difficult to write, the best I can do is list the vivid memories that truly capture the essence of my time in Strasbourg. I will always remember repeatedly turning that same corner to admire the breathtaking Gothic cathedral, performance artists in La Place Kleber, walking endlessly through magically illuminated Christmas markets drinking hot wine, stopping by two patisseries on the way to school, La Petite France and Poeles de Carottes, becoming consumed with novels by Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, having cheese baguettes for lunch and recalling the day that the bread finally stopped cutting my mouth, the dark and intimate cinema St. Exupery, endlessly browsing the charming specialty shops, and lastly, my dearest European friends with whom I have developed everlasting relationships.

After having completed studies in France, I spent several years away from the language to complete studies and work in the field of Music. I knew I would eventually come back to it when the opportunity presented itself, as it did during my Music Education degree at Memorial University. My decision to take a course in Core French Methods came from an interest in taking an easy-going and fun elective. However from the first day in class, I was pleased to discover that the course would offer a great deal more than that. Our professor, Camilla Stoodley, presented an intensive and comprehensive course that not only incorporated the fundamental skills and resources necessary to begin teaching in the school system, but a course that taught us the importance in delivering an authentic French experience to our students. Moreover, we were taught how we could turn our passion into an effective learning environment, and were given the opportunity to participate in private FSL conferences to further our training. Most importantly, professor Stoodley not only emphasized the importance of continuing our own French education, but asked that each of us devise a personal plan of action that included specific ways to do so.

Following my studies at Memorial, I moved to Halifax, N.S. where I am currently working as a Music teacher and French substitute teacher. I have been told that receiving term positions for the Halifax Regional School Board as a first year teacher is rare, and as my principals have repeatedly stressed, teachers with French backgrounds and methods courses are highly sought after by schools and school boards throughout the Atlantic provinces and Canada…even more so than teachers in any other field or area of specialization. My employers have also communicated the fact that my background in French gives me an edge as a music teacher, for I am able to incorporate French music and culture in both the English and Immersion music classes.

The past year has been an extremely rewarding one, and I have enjoyed continuing my own professional development in French methodologies by having first hand experience in many unique and creative Elementary level French Immersion classrooms. I have also been fortunate enough to develop working relationships and affiliations with several highly experienced French teachers and school administrators in the area. From here, I am confident that the following years will bring a great deal more learning experiences and available teaching positions in the field of French; possibilities that have been presented because of my decision to continue studying the language during my Music and Education degrees.