By Laura Roché Youngworth
The ties of Kentucky to the Francophone world are stronger than ever! From Belgium to Canada, thousands of employees in Kentucky work for a French-speaking company – and these companies run the gamut of services and products.
This, in addition to historical reminders such as city names (Allez Louisville) and distilled spirits (the Bourbon dynasty of French kings), reminds us how valuable the learning of the French language is and how, worldwide, French is a language of commerce.
For teachers of French, maintaining the value of learning French is more important than ever. Membership in the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF) can be a critical component for the growth of any school’s French program. With national headquarters located in Marion, Ill., and chapters in each state, the sole mission of AATF is to promote the study of French languages and to support and provide opportunities for its teachers and students.
Two quarterly publications are available for members. The “National Bulletin” contains news and updates of particular interest to French teachers, content-specific instructional ideas and promotional materials. The “French Review” is a scholarly journal focusing on French language and Francophone studies. Articles are written in either French or English and include current research on pedagogical practices, literature or cultural studies, and reviews.
The annual AATF national convention – which will be held July 3-6 in Austin, Texas – has a wealth of sessions focusing on promotion of French, instructional strategies, culture and history, technology and literature. Three-hour workshops also are available on topics such as AP, advocacy, and use of cinema and optional excursions to challenge your knowledge of French culture.
To promote and recognize language learning for students, AATF sponsors National French Week in November, Outstanding Senior in French awards, Excellence in French awards and numerous student contests. Members’ schools are encouraged to form a chapter of the Société Honoraire de Français (SHF), which recognizes students who have attained high levels of language learning with a special seal on their diploma and a tri-color graduation cord of bleu, blanc and rouge.
SHF chapters sponsor community service and extracurricular opportunities for their members and hold annual induction ceremonies. New this year, AATF has implemented an honor society for middle and elementary students studying French called the Jeunes Amis de Français.
For any student in the United States studying French, AATF sponsors Le Grand Concours competition. In 2016, more than 85,000 students are participating in this level-appropriate written exam. Winners of each category are recognized by medals and other awards. Kentucky has had students rank nationally multiple times.
In addition to the national offerings, the Kentucky chapter of AATF offers a more tailored support for its Kentucky members. Our website (www.aatf-kychapter.com) connects members and contains resources germane to all proficiency levels. Stipends are available to members presenting at local conferences, such as the Kentucky World Language Association’s conference in September, or afar, as in the National AATF conference. Small grants are available to teachers with special initiatives for their programs and a yearly professional development is available with a French luncheon. This year’s professional development was led by Megan Iranpour, author of more than 1,000 cultural questions on the AP-prep program Learnerator.
In its second year of implementation, the AATF of Kentucky chapter sponsored Program Recognitions in which members could submit their school’s French program to be judged by peers. Schools earned a rating of 1 to 3 fleur-de-lis based on class opportunities, student enrollment, extracurricular offerings and teacher involvement. Schools received a personalized certificate and administrators received a letter highlighting the achievements of their school’s French program. Overall winners in each category received plaques and recognition on the AATF of Kentucky’s website.
Perhaps most importantly, members of AATF of Kentucky are a community of devoted educators. We have a system to share updates and news. We support our peers for recognition in Teacher of the Year programs. (AATF members are often recognized as Ashland Oil or the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages’ Teacher of the Year finalists.) We also meet annually for an immersion evening at a French restaurant in Louisville or Lexington. This tight community of teachers are quick to help a peer and willing to help schools build strong, proficiency-based French programs.
Laura Roché Youngworth teaches French at Beaumont Middle School (Fayette County) and is the district’s world language/global competency content lead. She has a bachelor’s degree in French, English and secondary education, a master’s and rank one in curriculum and instruction, and a doctorate in administration and instruction from the University of Kentucky. She is the president of the Kentucky chapter of the American Association of Teachers of French, board member and co-chair of the Professional Development committee for the Kentucky World Language Association, host of the podcast series “Language Talk,” the 2015-16 KWLA French teacher and World Language Teacher of the Year, the 2016 Southern Conference on Language Teaching Teacher of the Year and a finalist for the national ACTFL World Language Teacher of the Year.