AATF Exemplary French Program with Honors

Vandegrift High School, Austin, TX
AATF Member: Kelly Simon

Vandegrift High School

Vandegrift High School opened in 2009 with French I. In 2010 when I began, French II and Pre-AP III were added. The following year, we had our first AP French class, and despite only offering Spanish in our district middle schools, upper levels have increased steadily each year.

My first year here at VHS, I formed the French Club. We take local field trips to places such as the French Legation, the Harry Ransom Center, Bob Bullock Museum, and other local museums with French-themed exhibits, as well as ending in a traditional crêperie for lunch. We also have bi-annual parties at a French restaurant in Austin. VHS French Club is one of the most active, longest-running clubs here on campus. We participate in National French Week and Adopt-a-Hallway here at school. We also participate in the Relay for Life yearly event held on campus in April. The French Club elects its own officers yearly, and students run it. When the Charlie Hebdo events unfolded, both the French Club and French Honor Society led campaigns in support of #jesuischarlie here on campus.

In 2013, we were funded by a local LEEF Grant to purchase French novels for levels two and three in order to supplement the textbooks and nurture reading comprehension in the target language.

French Honor Society students must attend at least 4 events/year in order to remain in good standing. We team up with the French Club to participate in Relay for Life.  French Honor Society students also tutor underclassmen in French during our daily PIT (study hall) times as needed. Officer positions are elected yearly, and the organization is entirely student-led. We have an annual Induction ceremony in April.

I am an active member of the Central Texas AATF Chapter and try to attend at least one of their two meetings per academic year. Each year I nominate one Outstanding Senior to receive the AATF award.

I am an active member of the Texas Foreign Language Assocation (TFLA) and won a Rosemary Patterson Grant in 2013 where I studied for a week at Merici College in Québec City. I attended a week-long immersion workshop for Teachers of French as a Second Language.

In June 2013 I organized a student trip to Québec (6 students) and will again lead students in June 2015 to France (6 students).

To my knowledge, there have been several VHS alumni who have continued to study French at the college level. There are eight that I know of who are currently majoring or minoring in French. I am able to keep in contact with these students on a regular basis, and some of them make an appearance at least once/year to speak to my current seniors. They offer advice not only in French at the university level and the AP exams but also college life.

Beginning in the spring of 2015, we participated in a student exchange (pen pals, technology/lesson implementation, and homestays) with a high school in Lille, France. AP French is also participating in “Penpal Schools” which partners our class up with a similar one in France to exchange blogs, e-mails, etc.

We have a relationship with local Francophone tutors and parents. These volunteers set-up summer exchanges between our students and same-aged ones in France. I also have two French parents visit my AP class regularly to engage students in impromptu speaking situations.

We have hosted Le Grand Concours yearly on campus  since 2012 when I began. We host an induction for la Société Honoraire de Français annually in April. Language practice is also provided with local native speakers who are guests in the classroom. Traditionally, VHS Grand Concours scores remain steady in the top 10-30% category at all levels. Each year there are at least 3-5 who receive medals for placing in the top 10%. Parents often volunteer to proctor the Grand Concours, and they donate ice cream for our traditional ice cream sundae party after the competition.

VHS future plans include expanding the program to have more than just two sections of level 1, which has been the traditional model. French Honor Society students attend 8th Grade Parent Orientation night in order to recruit underclassmen. We contact the middle school counselors on a regular basis each year, asking for their cooperation in educating 8th graders on the possibility of taking French 1 for credit. Spanish 1 is the only current LOTE course offered in our middle schools and has been for many years.

I try my best to adhere to the 90% rule of speaking French in all levels. Students are graded on participation which includes speaking French and not English. This is 20% of their overall grade. Student desks are paired-up so that everyone always has at least one partner for communication.

In the upper levels, students are required to do 45 minutes of outside listening to French and record it.

 In each level for every chapter there is a memorized/impromptu skit in which all students must participate. These skits typically include the vocabulary, culture, & grammar of the chapter. All levels use court-métrages and other excerpts from numerous authentic sites such as Radio Canada, TV5, etc., as appropriate for each chapter with accompanying questions.

The Vandegrift High School French program is fortunate to have unwavering support from Administrators, parents, and community members. This includes our Superintendent, Dr. Bret Champion, and our Principal, Mr. Charlie Little. They have always supported and nurtured my passion for French and the students who are a part of our program.

 I myself had an outstanding French teacher in high school and I never doubt the power of one person to change the world. As soon as I entered Madame Amo's classroom as a freshman, I knew I had found my calling. She encouraged me and nurtured my talent in French. Her passion was contagious! When I was 15 years old I decided I would become a French teacher and spread this beautiful language to as many students as I could. I was privileged to then go on and student teach back in her classroom while in college. I carry on her legacy every day at Vandegrift High School where my French students are truly "sans pareil" (second to none).



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

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