AATF Exemplary French Program with Distinction

Parker High School, Janesville, WI
AATF Member: Andrea Behn

Parker High School

The Janesville Parker French Program is a healthy program, but by no means perfect! When I took the French teacher position 8 years ago, I was nervous. I’d only had middle school experience, and I did not know where to begin. So I jumped in, just like I do with everything! I taught 5 sections and collaborated with the part-time teachers who taught 1-2 sections. The program has grown and by moving to a modified block schedule I know teach 6 section and my colleague teaches 3! I became very involved in the school, chaperoning dances, supervising athletic events, and attending concerts and shows. Students knew about French because I have a presence!

Janesville, Wisconsin has endured a lot the last 8 years. First we saw the closing of the GM plant in town, which affected everyone. Then Wisconsin faced many governmental challenges. Morale was affected and many wonderful teachers left the area, retired, or were laid off due to budget cuts. Additionally, at the beginning of my career at Parker, there were rumors that French, German, or both languages were going to be cut. They felt that neither language was relevant as “World War II languages.” We fought against this mind-set for several years, until in the end, German was cut and the the Chinese program from the elementary schools to the middle and high school levels was expanded.

Despite these challenges, I dug in and made collaboration my priority and learned from others what made their programs successful. I worked with my colleagues in the district, at both the high schools and the middle schools, as well as with other French teachers from around the state. As a professional, I truly believe that when things are going as you’d like, change something.

What Did We Implement to Increase Enrollment?

Super Français Award (inspired by Concordia Language Villages, borrowed from Karen Morgan): To add something positive and provide recognition for students, I began offering the Super Français Award. I selected a Super Espion for the quarter to choose a deserving classmate for being positive, trying new things, being a role model, sharing cultural information, and helping others. The Super Français didn’t need to be the best student in the class, but it did need to be someone who everyone would agree embodies all the good attributes of a French student.

New Courses and New Course Proposals: This year we added AP French and though there were only a few students, the enrollment has doubled for next year! I was approved to teach a dual-credit French course through the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, though we have not been able to run the class. We also proposed two new classes, Francophone Cinema and French Plus (a course to explore French in future careers). We have not been able to run either since moving to the block schedule. I’m hoping this changes in the future as students settle into the new schedule and realize they have many more options.

 Cross-Cultural Classroom Connections (through University of Wisconsin-Madison): I’ve connected with a university student who is studying abroad for the year and she writes blogs about her experiences and answers our cultural questions. I’ve also had former students come and talk about their experiences with study abroad. My students love this!

Future Plans: In the last few years we have collaborated more with district schools, created a common curriculum, and worked on common assessments. In the future, we would like to align our curriculum to the AP exam and plan backward.


 For full information on applying for Exemplary Program status, click here.  

Created: July 20, 2015
Last Update: July 21, 2015