Jeremy Ranch says ‘merci’ for LabelFrancEducation honor
To students at Jeremy Ranch Elementary School, it was a day they won’t soon forget.
Earlier this month, representatives from the French Ministry of Education came to the school to honor it with a prestigious LabelFrancEducation award for the work its dual-language immersion program has done to celebrate the French language and culture.
The students were in awe as the representatives wandered from classroom to classroom to get a glimpse at the school. Lucie Kayser-Bril, a French dual-language immersion teacher who grew up in France, said it had the feeling of a monumental event.
“They were all very excited,” said Kayser-Bril, who teaches fifth grade. “To them, it was like the French president was coming.”
To Shawn Kuennen, principal of the Jeremy Ranch, receiving the award was an incredible honor because the school is one of only a couple dozen throughout the country to be given the designation. He added that the award provides a perfect opportunity to recognize the hard work of everyone involved in the dual-language immersion program.
“It’s important because of the tremendous work that our whole school and whole community has put in to making this program successful,” he said. “So it’s nice to have some recognition. It was especially nice that they had an entourage of education officials from France that came to visit and look through each classroom and spend a little time with each teacher.”
Lindsay Herman, a second-grade dual-immersion teacher at the school, said her students were also thrilled to have the French representatives at the school. She hoped the experience would prove inspiring to the students, encouraging them to dive even deeper into learning about the French culture.
“In second grade, they definitely knew that people were here to see them and understood that it was about them and the work they do in French,” she said. “They noticed that the people were all wearing ties, because they were all very official. It was a tangible presence that they were all here.”
The award was also a reminder of the importance of dual-language immersion programs, said Herman, who is grateful Utah has a thriving infrastructure in place for schools to offer such programs. She said the value for a child to learn a different language, and be exposed to other cultures, cannot be overstated.
“Just the cultural aspect is huge, regardless of the actual language that they’re learning — just opening their minds to the fact that there are other people in the world and other ways of doing things,” she said. “I just think that is incredibly valuable.”
Kayser-Bril, who taught French in first grade for two years before moving to fifth grade, added that it’s stunning how quickly the students progress. They enter the dual-language immersion program in first grade, unfamiliar with even the most basic French words. By fifth grade, they often catch themselves thinking in French and can engage in serious conversations.
“In fifth grade, we do debates, and we were just debating about tattoos,” she said. “We had someone for and someone against, and they’re debating together in the class. They’re almost French. Sometimes you hear one of the kids speaking in French, and you really think it’s a French kid.”
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The Park City School District offices were inadvertently locked, but security footage was reviewed and the only two community members who showed up were let in and joined in an informal chat with Board of Education members and staff.