Katie graduated from UCLA in 2010 with a B.A.
in History and USF in 2012 with an M.A. in Teaching.
She hopes to be fully quadrilingual (English, French,
Italian, and Spanish) by the end of this school year,
and is putting all of her languages to good use in Bogotá. After completing the 2012-2013 school year at
her current IB school, she plans to return to California and continue in the field of education.
Katie Schenkkan on a rock-climbing
expedition in Medellin, Colombia.
Tyson Thomas Class of 1988
It all started in 6C. In autumn of 1981, I was part of a new gaggle of French neophytes in a grand experiment o both grow the student body of the French-American Bilingual School (FABS, as it was then called) and test how much French could be jammed into an eleven- year-old brain. In addition to math in French, history- geography in French, and French in French, instead of Spanish like the other sixth graders got, 6C got even more French. Thankfully English was still in English, but it wasn’t any easier taught by Dan Harder. I was
sure “Harder” was his nickname, because he sure lived
up to it! I learned to love him, though, and he became my
favorite teacher. He tells a great story. If you get a chance,
see if you can get him to tell you the story of three-fingered
Willy. Anyhow, back to the 6C experiment; the myriad of
other classes were in English as I recall, so plentiful as to
require a two-week schedule to fit them all.
Now you would think this experiment would be a disaster. I vividly recall my first day in Jean Chaissac’s French
Math class, sitting next to Paul Gordon by the window,
where I was a bit lost but figured out what he (M. Chaissac)
was talking about by the overlapping circles and letters he
drew on the blackboard. What American learns set theory
in the 6th Grade? In French no less?! Apparently, that’s what
we were learning, I came to figure out later: set theory. I
also figured out the meaning of se débrouiller, because that’s
what we were all doing, the best we could to sort out the
foreign-sounding fire hose of information. The mind is amazing at that age, able to absorb and learn way more than one
can imagine. About eight years later, I would randomly run
into Jean Chaissac in the teacher’s lounge at Lycée Camille
Sée where I was an English volunteer teacher during my
semester abroad in Paris. We went to a café for a drink and
it was nice to finally understand him without a blackboard.
Then again, we didn’t discuss math.
The most traumatic experience learning French as a
newbie was the dreaded dictée. I probably don’t need to say
any more for this audience and I apologize for any induced
PTSD reactions I might have caused by using that word, but
seriously? Word endings sound exactly the same in French,
but have about eighteen different spellings!? Who came up
with this crazy language? And don’t get me started about
“Mireille and Pierre.” In French class we followed those two
bumpkins for countless hours of their mundane “
adventures,” slide after painful slide. It was so frustrating. Buy the
damn baguette already and tell her how you feel, Pierre! To
this day I wonder if those two ever ended up hooking up,
but apparently we never made it to the end of that story in
class. I’m beginning to suspect that there was no ending. For
those unfamiliar with this didactic duo, just ask somebody
who was in the French Department circa 1982.
I ended up at FABS as a result of having lived in Holland between the ages of three and four. My mom saw how
quickly I was absorbing languages as we traveled to Greece,
Italy, France, Germany and Sweden and compared that to