by Kiara Wessling
World Languages, Director of Global Learning
I was incredibly fortunate to travel to Senegal with a group of other French teachers from across the United States with funding from the Lastinger Summer Scholars Fund. Going to Africa has long been a dream of mine, but with my position as both French instructor and Director of Global Learning at ESJ, I truly couldn’t wait to step foot in this beautiful Francophone country.
For one week, I spoke a blend of French, English, and Wolof with all of those around me. As a language teacher, it was humbling and exciting to try to speak a new language. Wolof is one of many African languages and sounds nothing like any language that I can speak, so it constantly made me reflect on how students feel throughout the journey of second language acquisition. It was a gentle reminder that languages are challenging and everyone goes at his or her own pace. Each one of the 10 of us (all French teachers) had successes and failures all throughout the week. I was excited to share this with my students upon my return and will continue to do so in the future.
We had the opportunity to speak with students at three different schools throughout Senegal. Speaking with these students, we were able to get a first-hand account of what Senegal was truly like for them and what their hopes and dreams were for their future and our world. In all of my classes from French 1A to AP French, we speak about the Francophone world and how it can be similar and different from mainland France. This firsthand account was an invaluable experience. I can’t wait to weave little lessons from Senegal throughout my courses this upcoming year, from these conversations with students and in schools to sleeping and riding a camel in the Lompoul Desert to taking a pirogue across the Pink Lake to seeing La Maison des Esclaves (House of Slaves) on Gorée Island.
Another wonderful opportunity that has come out of this trip is the creation of a Senegal Service and Cultural Appreciation Program for Episcopal students. Slated to run in June 2020, our students will work alongside Senegalese students to better communities in Senegal with meaningful and purposeful service work. Students will also have the opportunities to explore the Lompoul Desert, the Pink Lake, and other areas of Senegal, just like I did. After experiencing Nantes and Paris alongside students this past summer, I cannot wait to experience Senegal with students and a co-chaperone from ESJ next summer, especially after teaching on Senegal and its dynamics throughout the academic year. I am incredibly grateful for the generosity of the Lastingers in creating this scholarship fund for teachers' professional growth.
The Lastinger Summer Scholars Fund provides for special professional experiences for selected ESJ faculty. Established in 2000 through a gift from Delores and Allen Lastinger, the Lastinger Summer Scholars Fund will provide for professional development opportunities over and above those required, and will benefit not only the faculty members’ educational needs but also the expanded community of Episcopal School of Jacksonville. Some of the most rewarding professional development programs are those extended summer programs offered by numerous universities, agencies, and foundations.