Record Number of U.Va. Students Accepted to Assistantships in France

May 20, 2010 — This year a record number of University of Virginia French students have been awarded positions in the Teaching Assistant Program in France, offered by the French Ministry of Education and the Cultural Services at the French Embassy.

Fourteen students have been offered positions to work in France for nine months, teaching English to students of all ages. The number represents roughly 22 percent of the fourth-year Department of French Language and Literature students who are expected to graduate on Sunday, said Gladys Saunders, associate professor and director of the Undergraduate Program in French.

"We have not kept precise records of the awards, as the students apply independently to the French Embassy and not through the department," Saunders said. In the past, the largest number of awardees she recalls was about four years ago when five students accepted offers. Other years "it has been an insignificant number – maybe two or three," she said. 

Students awarded French assistantships and their assigned regions are: Mark Benson, Académie de Nancy-Metz; Frances Bernard, Rouen; Sarah Brown, Strasbourg; Leslie Deal, Paris; Kathleen Hall, Aix-Marseille; Stephen Hartka, Académie Créteil; Anna Jacobs, Nantes; Margaret Mansfield, Montpellier; Sylvia Macon, Académie de Nantes; Rachel Nablo, Nancy-Metz; Tessa Nunn, Nantes; Jenna Pastuszek, Paris; Frederika Wicker, Bordeaux; and Tatianna Yeh, Nantes

The program is designed for English-speaking students to share English language and culture with French students and provides an opportunity for the Americans to improve their own French language skills, according to the French Embassy's website.

The embassy offers 1,500 teaching assistantships each year to American citizens and permanent residents of the United States.

Awardees teach in primary and secondary schools across France and in the overseas territories of French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Réunion.

The teaching assistantship program is intended to strengthen English-language instruction through the presence of a native speaker and to give future teachers of French in the United States a first-hand knowledge of French language and culture.

"Assistantships in France provide Americans a rare opportunity to spend an entire academic year abroad, not just as students, but as colleagues in the national academic system," said Cheryl Krueger, associate professor and chair of the French Department. "They must be prepared linguistically and psychologically to handle situations that have not been tailored for students or for tourists. They must be willing move beyond their comfort zone. The fact that so many students from our program were selected for these positions reflects the motivation and qualification of the U.Va. students who applied."

Participants receive a stipend to cover living expenses, health insurance and taxes.

Applicants are required to have either a major or minor in French, be proficient in French and be a citizen of the United States.

— By Jane Ford