Trailside Elementary School Principal Kathy Einhorn was standing near the Salt Lake City International Airport baggage claim holding a sign that read "Bonjour Fabien!" That was more than a year ago, the day Einhorn met the new, French dual-immersion teacher Fabien Beaufils, who would be working with first graders at the school.
Since then, the school has received a major accolade for its dual-immersion program. Trailside Elementary School was selected by the French Ministry of Education as one of 17 schools recognized for its French language instruction. Schools on the list were from as far away as Australia, the Czech Republic and Chili, but seven of the 17 schools recognized came from Utah. And one school, Trailside Elementary School, is from Park City.
"I studied French in high school and college," Einhorn said, "so I can understands what goes on in the classes. But students learning a new language this way, they will be so far ahead of where I was after seven years studying French. "These students will be able to take Advanced Placement tests for college credit, or continue studying the language into college, or even pick up third language, which will be much easier for them after they have mastered a second language."
The program had only been around for a semester when French Ministry representatives paid Trailside Elementary School a visit, inspecting the program and what it covered. the end of the school year, Einhorn was informed that the school had won the accolade, the FrancEducation Label, but admitted she was not sure exactly what it meant.
"I didn't know much about what it meant," she said, " We know now, it's quite the distinction from the French government that says we have a high quality program in our school."
"It is an honor for Trailside to receive this recognition," she added. "It speaks volumes about the quality of Trailside and the entire school district."
Each of the 17 schools offer more than just French language. Each school teaches history and culture as part of building new language skills. French Ministry of Education representatives grading the schools considered more than the quality of the immersion program, including the overall school program, classroom instruction, specialists programs and extra-curricular activities.
"Last year, my class established contacts with my old school in France," Beaufils said. "We had pen pals and that was my way of getting them to know other kids in another region, to motivate them to write in French."
With the new label, Einhorn will also be traveling to France, a trip paid for by the French government, at the end of the month for a conference that will include the principals of all 17 schools. She plans to use the opportunity to talk about other successes and applications of dual-immersion techniques in Trailside Elementary School.
A French-native, Beaufils was originally appointed by the state and had a teaching background in his home country. When originally selected to pilot the dual-immersion program for first graders, Beaufils was only allowed a visa for one year, but since receiving the FrancEducation Label, Beaufils can stay in the country for up to three years.
"(These students) have a French teacher," Beaufils said. "If they didn't learn about France that would be bad. I tell them a lot about France: how are the people, what are things they could see and visit. It would be a shame if I didn't talk about my country."
"Every time I know someone speaks French, or friend in town, have them come into the class," he added.
Beaufils brought his parents into the classroom when they visited. He talks about his hometown, a ski town like Park City. He even remembers talking about the history and structure of the Eifel Tower after a student mentioned they saw the reproduction in Las Vegas.
"I think it is great that we were awarded this for our participated in spreading French culture and the French language," Beaufils said. "These kids will be ambassadors."