Jessica Monti’s career in education has seen her teach French (langue maternelle), history, geography and plastic arts at Rosemount High School and Vincent Massey Collegiate before ultimately serving in administrative roles at East Hill and Pierre de Coubertin Elementary Schools.
As a student herself in Vincent Massey’s specialized langue d’enseignement French program, Ms. Monti was exposed to the same French language curriculum as that of French schools. The program, designed for those with an already strong grasp of the French language, proved to be a perfect fit for Ms. Monti.
“I was in a program designed to provide me with the very best French knowledge,” said Ms. Monti. “I spoke French at home and I spent my summers at a French camp where I made francophone friends. I had the chance to take what the EMSB was giving me and reinforce it with whatever opportunities I had outside of school. It gave me the base for what I was able to do afterwards.”
Now vice-principal at Pierre-de-Coubertin Elementary School, Ms. Monti ensures her own exposure to French at a young age across all areas of her childhood is replicated and reinforced with today’s students.
“French is not just a class; it’s also part of school life,” said Ms. Monti. “We have activities, outings, and field trips in French. We preach bilingualism every day and it is a mindset throughout the entire school. When the school embraces opportunities to utilize French outside of the classroom, that’s what makes the difference.”
Stephanie Mallozzi doesn’t merely teach French to Grades 1 and 2 students at Dalkeith Elementary in Anjou; she encourages them to fall in love with the language in much the same way she did.
“I believe that I have the responsibility of instilling a love for learning and implementing a positive outlook of the French language for my students,” said Ms. Mallozzi, who has been at Dalkeith for the past seven years. “We sing and we dance every day. I owe everything to the EMSB schools I attended and all the teachers that had a huge influence in my decision to become a French teacher.”
‘Ms. Mallozi vividly remembers one of her Grade 1 students, who entered her class with a negative outlook of French, refusing to speak the language either in class or at home. However, after a few short months, Ms. Mallozzi received a call from the parent explaining how happy their child was now in French class, a situation viewed as impossible just a few short months earlier. The child would ask to complete French lessons and the songs sung in class now reverberated throughout the family home.
“Your child will be ready to conquer life in Quebec if they attend an EMSB school,” said Ms. Mallozzi. “We need to be bilingual, but more than that, we need to make sure our children love the language. If they learn to love the language, they will learn to embrace the language. The EMSB and the dedicated teachers will ensure that your child succeeds in that respect.”
Samantha Meixian Fong
Samantha Meixian Fong teaches French as a Second Language (core and enriched) as well as Contemporary World to Secondary IV and V students within the EMSB’s Alernate Outreach High School Network. She, herself, completed her elementary school studies in French immersion at Gardenview in St. Laurent.
“I can say that because I did that, I was able to speak and had a solid foundation for French,” she said. “My French teachers have always been wonderful and patient. Due to their patience and great teaching, I have learned to like the language and have always made an effort to speak French growing up.”
Ms. Fong encourages today’s students to have an open mind when it comes to learning a new language. “Starting as young as possible is key to a lifelong love for learning,” she said.
As the French Resource Teacher at Roslyn Elementary School in Westmount, Bianca Jorrin works with her fellow colleagues to find ways to help struggling students. She works hand-in-hand with psychologists, occupational therapists and speech and language pathologists along the way so that parents and students receive the help and support they need.
Her position in French education was greatly inspired by her Secondary III to V French teacher at Vincent Massey Collegiate, Monsieur Larivière.
“I was in the Français langue maternelle program, where I was pushed by Monsieur Larivière to learn beyond the curriculum,” said Ms. Jorrin. “He cared deeply for his students and pushed us, while offering his support to learn and succeed at the same time. He was a star. He really made every one of his students feel important.”
Ms. Jorrin would go on to continue her French education by studying in advanced French at Marianopolis College. Her devotion to the French language has been passed down to her own children, who attend Roslyn as well.
“I feel strongly that the level of French in our immersion schools is great,” she said. “I enjoy the fact that the children are taught mostly in French from Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 2. The more exposure they can have, the better for their French language acquisition. It is a gift to be bilingual and to work with more than one language.”
Bianca Silvina Coverini
Bianca Silvina Coverini grew up only speaking English at home. Nevertheless, she found herself pursuing a career in French education, thanks, in large part, to the French immersion programs she attended at both Willingdon Elementary in NDG and Westmount High School.
“I would not be where I am today without the Immersion Program at the board,” said Ms. Coverini, who now teaches Grade 2 French and Math at St. Monica Elementary in NDGà. “It provided me with a solid understanding of the language, which helped me not only in my career, but in social settings as well. I have very fond memories of my French teachers, who were nothing but patient and supportive in learning a new language.”
Ms. Coverini began at the EMSB in 2018, having completed her bachelor’s degree in Kindergarten and Elementary Education at McGill. She would go on to complete a one-year course entitled Microprogramme de 2e cycle en enseignement du français langue seconde.
Ms. Coverini aims to impart her love of French to her students and hopes even more parents and students join the French immersion programs.
“The EMSB programs allow you to be functionally fluent in French and gives you the confidence and ability to use French effectively in your daily lives,” she said. “I think that the benefits of bilingual education is an asset for future employment and something that all students can only benefit from.”
Veronica Bastone attended East Hill Elementary School as a student, benefiting from the school’s French immersion program. In 2018, Ms. Bastone returned to the school to teach French and give back to the place she credits with paving the way on her road to becoming a French teacher.
“At East Hill, I was able to get a great foundation in the French language,” said Ms. Bastone, who currently teaches Grade 6 French, science, social studies, art and ethics, all in French. “I, then, continued to pursue studies in English schools (Vincent Massey Collegiate, CEGEP Vanier and McGill University) with high honors across all of my French classes.”
Ms. Bastone would go on to pass her French proficiency exam following her graduation from university. She has taught French to Pre-K, Grades 3, 4, 5, and 6 students over the past five years and she views French immersion as the best alternative to French schooling and hopes more and more families will take advantage of the program.
“I believe that our EMSB schools can contribute to our students’ academic success in the French language as long as they continue to reinforce what is practiced in schools at home,” she said. “Our EMSB schools have amazing teachers that are always willing to help their students reach their greatest potential as learners and I was truly lucky to be placed in a school that made my journey as an EMSB student come full circle.”
As Laura Primiano roams the hallways and classrooms at Roslyn Elementary School in Westmount, where she currently teaches Kindergarten to Grade 5 students in French, she cannot help but reflect on her time at the school as a student herself within the school’s French immersion program.
“I have very fond memories of many French teachers I had in both schools over the years and it is really thanks to them that I am able to teach in French today,” said Ms. Primiano, who has taught at the school in French since 2007. She later attended Royal West Academy, taking advanced French class and graduating with honors and a bilingual certificate.
Ms. Primiano praises the French education offered to EMSB students and marvels at the quality of bilingual students that come out of its schools.
“I believe that the French teachers in our schools are always doing a wonderful job at educating their students in French,” said Ms. Primiano. “Children will be able to speak and write in French by the end of Grade 6 and be truly bilingual, an asset for anyone.”
Sabrina Colatruglio’s ties to French language instruction date back to 2008, when she was a part of the very first French immersion graduating class at Edward Murphy School in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. Now a 5th Grade French teacher herself at Pierre-de-Coubertin School, where she teaches Français, langue seconde, Univers social, Science et technologie, and Éthique et culture religieuse, Ms. Colatruglio remembers being in Mr. Champagne’s first grade class as if it was yesterday.
“Although I was only six years old, the memories of him entering the classroom each morning, singing a song with a little guitar in his hands, still make me smile,” she said. “Whenever I think about my early school years, I remember being happy and excited to go to school every morning.”
Ms. Colatruglio has carried on M. Champagne’s ‘joie de vivre,” love of music and a good time with her into her own classroom.
“My biggest goal is to assure that my students get to experience that same feeling of genuine happiness that I did as a child,” she said. “I want them to be eager to come to school every morning; I want them to feel safe enough to take risks in French class; and I want them to look back on their elementary years one day, and be grateful for the opportunities that learning a second language has given them.”
Ms. Colatruglio encourages parents to enroll their children in extracurricular activities where the language of communication amongst coaches, instructors and teammates is primarily French in order to build upon what is taught in the classroom.
“Encourage your child to use the vocabulary they’ve learned in school to make new friends and acquire new skills,” she said. “Exposure to the language in and out of school is the best way, in my opinion, for children to truly see the purpose of learning a second language. Once children understand that French is not solely a subject that they have to learn in school, but a means of connecting with the world; then they will begin to see the value in this part of their education, and have a much better chance of solidifying their French language skills.”