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When Jessica Fennell ’06 (Gibsonia, Pa.) graduates next year and begins applying for jobs in teaching, she will already have months and months of experience.

This semester Fennell, a French major and music minor, is earning college credit through the department of foreign languages and literatures by teaching high school French students.

Every Wednesday for an hour and a half, Fennell assists Margrit Neiman, French teacher at Palisades High School, with her French IV class.

“I want to be a high school teacher someday and I think this is a good opportunity to get into the school and see how the teachers plan lessons, what they do when they create a plan, and how they instruct the foreign language,” she says.

Described by Neiman as a “breath of fresh air,” Fennell plans a lesson for each class she instructs.

“At the beginning of the week, I talk to her about the activity and she usually e-mails me back the next morning with a plan,” Neiman says. “Which means overnight she comes up with a plan and she’s always done wonderful things with the activities.”

For instance, one listening activity planned by Fennell involved her using French to tell the class a few things about her childhood. The students then had to write in French to respond with a few details about their own childhoods. The descriptions were collected and read out loud, and class members guessed which description matched which student.

“Her activities are usually something that is interesting and fun,” Neiman says. “She’s always bringing in new ideas and many times they are things I haven’t thought about for quite a few years.”

Fennell said her internship is much more valuable than a traditional education class.

“I get first-hand field experience, which is a lot better than a regular education course where a teacher stands up there and lectures to us about how to teach,” she explains.

As part of the experience, she is learning what she enjoys and find challenging about teaching high school students.

“My favorite part is interacting with the students, doing activities with them, and helping them learn,” Fennell says. “At first, I thought it would be really hard to plan lessons, but when I teach, [the students] get really creative with it, they’re not rebellious or anything. But sometimes it’s hard when you know what you are trying to say, but they don’t understand. Sometimes it’s hard to bring lessons down to their level. A lot of times, you assume they know so much.”

Neiman says her students enjoy having Fennell in the classroom and look forward to Wednesdays.

“She’s someone young, more their age, and it opens them up to thinking that students in college take French too and it’s something they could continue with and build a college major out of it,” Neiman adds.

The internship has shown Fennell what high school foreign language teachers deal with on a daily basis and solidified her post-graduation plans.

“At first, when I was deciding my major, I had doubts about going back into a high school,” she explains. “This internship is exactly what I would like to do after college, teach French. It not only reinforces my desire to become a teacher, it gives me essential experience in the education field.”

Fennell is a French and America Reads tutor and member of the Alpha Phi sorority. She also volunteers at the Safe Harbor homeless shelter and as a prison tutor. She graduated from Hampton High School.

Categorized in: Academic News