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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Butler Elementary French teacher to depart, encourages dual immersion

Apr 12, 2021 09:36AM ● By Julie Slama

Butler Elementary dual immersion teacher Aurelie Demarcq helps a student with a French lesson. (Photo courtesy of Aurelie Demarcq)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

For the past three years, Butler Elementary’s French teacher Aurelie Demarcq has taught students her native tongue in the school’s dual immersion program and she wouldn’t trade that experience.

“I’ve loved it,” she said. “The kids are learning with the language. It’s very rewarding.”

Demarcq’s journey as a dual immersion teacher began with her post-secondary school career. Instead of pursuing the idea of being an orthopedic doctor, she went into languages since she excelled in them. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Spanish civilization, language and culture and her master’s in French as a foreign language. 

“With my master’s, the choices were work at a private language center or go teach in another country. It’s better to go outside of France,” she said.

Demarcq left her homeland in 2011 and after teaching in the Ukraine a couple months, Saudi Arabia for one year, Egypt for six years and Utah for three years, the word “home” is relative.

“My passport is full of cool visas,” she said.

Demarcq’s next stop is back to Egypt, her husband’s homeland, where she plans to teach at an international school starting in August.

“When I teach in different types of schools and in different countries, there are different curriculums, so I have to adapt. Here, I’ve learned technology and new strategies. I have had to adapt because expectations in Utah are high. Utah does a good job teaching so students learn the most they can. They improve so much because they practice speaking,” she said.

One thing Demarcq has noticed is when students are learning, they apply what they know.

“Many of them are trying to make words out of the words they do know. Kids do the same with English or Spanish or any language. I just smile and see how they create and make sense with the French vocabulary. Others will correct them, and the students will just repeat without understanding. I’ve learned if you don’t correct, they learn quicker and correct themselves and have a greater knowledge,” she said.

Through the COVID-19 pandemic, Demarcq incorporated more technology and blended strategy platforms while the school was on former Gov. Gary Herbert’s soft school closure mandate last spring and throughout this year while students have been isolated or quarantined.

She also encouraged students to practice by watching movies with French subtitles not just while in quarantine, but all the time.

“I’ve learned a lot of English by watching American movies. I may lose some of the words, but when I can read them and see how they’re spelled, I learn more vocabulary and improve my English,” Demarcq said, adding that free digital books in the language or practicing the language with a sibling or friend is helpful as well.

 She also uses videos from French TV and music when teaching students.

“They’re authentic ways students can learn the language and understand the culture from the language itself. It’s in our music, our stories and what they learn. They can comprehend it and create their own stories as they retell, speak and write,” Demarcq said. 

One thing that was initially difficult teaching in the United States for her was the difference in people’s approach.

“The French people are more reserved. Students are students and a teacher is a teacher. We may not share our lives and here, students want to know about us. I’m changing and understanding that with a better relationship, they learn better,” she said. “Our first week, we do icebreakers to get to know each other and make that connection.”

Demarcq said Canyons School District has implemented several teaching strategies to help students learn, some which she plans to continue as she teaches in other countries.

“I like how we get in a circle and it allows us to build relationships and speak. I may ask them about their favorite book. One child may say what their favorite book is, but another will be able to share about the book and we can all learn from that student how to speak, how to listen, how to put together words and something about that student. It’s kindness and building a community. I didn’t believe that it would work at first and I was wrong,” she said.

Demarcq also appreciates the Butler school community.

“In Egypt, I taught at a very big school and the faculty don’t often speak to one another. At Butler, I feel it’s like a family. There is someone here to listen. We’re not alone; we help each other,” she said.

While Demarcq will miss not seeing everyone at World Night, the school’s international showcase of languages and cultures for families that won’t be held because of the pandemic’s social distancing guidelines, she stresses the opportunities she’s had with knowing varying levels of English, Arabic, Spanish and French and wants to give that to Butler students.

“Dual immersion is important. The world is all together. There is always someone speaking French somewhere. English right now is everywhere, but that may change. By learning a language, you can better communicate with others and it is another way of thinking that will help you understand them and yourself. It opens your mind to accepting differences, it helps you grow and realize there is no right way, but many ways,” Demarcq said. “I encourage everyone to try the program. If you don’t love it, you don’t have to continue; but if you do, it can open many opportunities to understanding our world.”