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French teacher uses first-hand experiences in the classroom

A family myth is one of the reasons Anthony Letourneau decided to take French in high school, jumpstarting his interest in the language and leading him to a degree in education. This year, he is the new French and English teacher at Hastings High School.

Letourneau is a French last name. His family myth says “several generations back there was a Letourneau living in Quebec, Canada, that was a notorious horse thief, so in order to escape the law and not be hung, he escaped to the United States,” Letourneau said.

The other reason for taking French was that less people had signed up for French rather than Spanish. But he said he fell in love with the language and culture after that and his teacher was great.

Letourneau double majored in English education and French education at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Last year, he taught abroad in Pau, France.

“I had studied abroad in college in Pau, so it was a strange happenstance that I was in the exact same kind of spot,” Letourneau said.

He taught at a vocational high school for future butchers, bakers and pastry chefs. Letourneau said it was a fantastic experience — there was even a four star restaurant on campus.

Those experiences abroad have helped Letourneau in his classroom when he is teaching French. There are pictures in the textbook, but he said the students can ask him for first hand experiences.

“I think it makes it much more authentic for them when I’m talking about something I experienced; it’s much more tangible,” Letourneau said.

One of the most rewarding things in teaching is the students, Letourneau said. It is the moment when he, as the teacher, makes himself obsolete.

“I love that moment where you see all the pieces fit together, the gears click, the lightbulb goes on and they don’t need you anymore, and I think that's just the most rewarding and fantastic experience,” Letourneau said.

Some of the ways he tries to instill information into his students is through games. He said he uses dice a lot. One game is called Aller Six, which means Go Six. Students are in groups of four and they must complete a task or activity. It’s usually some sort of review material such as conjugation of verbs or vocabulary. Only one person can work on the activity at a time and everyone else must roll the dice until they roll a six. Whoever rolls the six wins the right to work on the activity.

“It’s a way to kind of make that review a little bit more engaging,” Letourneau said.

Sometimes the game gets pretty competitive and he said it makes it worth their while to really get into the game.

“We did it yesterday and I mean we didn’t have people throwing tables over, but they were standing up; it was exciting,” Letourneau said.

Letourneau’s teaching methods are meant to be meaningful to his students. He said he hopes to get through everything planned in the curriculum for this year, but to do it is important to his students. That way, the students have an opportunity to buy in and make what they are learning their own.

“So my goal is to try to find ways to make the things that we are learning engaging and interesting and meaningful,” Letourneau said.

Michelle Wirth

Michelle Wirth graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2013 with a degree in journalism and web design. She worked as a web content editor for a trade association before coming to the Hastings Star Gazette in 2016.

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