Sandra Joubert, a native of France, teaches the French section of the Dual Language Immersion Program at Grantsville Elementary School.
According to the Utah State Office of Education, as students get older and their brains develop further, it becomes harder to learn a foreign language. By starting at a younger age, it is easier to teach students both a foreign language and English skills — and immersion is the cheapest and most effective way to teach these skills.
“Immersion students are better prepared for the global community and job markets where a second language is an asset,” the Utah State Office of Education DLIP website states.
Grantsville Elementary School chooses to teach French in their immersion program.
Joubert first learned about the Utah DLIP when one of her friends, Eve-Laure Regazzi, met Kaye Murdock, the director of the French section of DLIP. Regazzi mentioned to Joubert that the Utah State Office of Education was looking for a native French teacher.
“I was very motivated to experience this new way of teaching. In France, schools which offer a DLIP are rare,” Joubert said. “In addition, I thought it could be a great mean to improve my English skills and to learn about the American culture.”
Once Joubert had acquired more details about the open position, she applied for the job.
“I had a Skype interview with Mr. Hamm, the principal at Grantsville Elementary,” She said. “A few hours later I was happy to know that Mr. Hamm was ready to welcome me as the new French teacher in his school.”
While French is Joubert’s native language, she is semi-fluent in English.
“I learned English at school as soon as I was 11. I got a bachelor’s degree in English and Italian at Avignon University,” Joubert said.
She also went on to receive her master’s degree in teaching. Before coming to America, Joubert lived in Cognac, France, a small city of about 16,000 inhabitants, and known for the beverage of the same name.
Joubert explained that teaching in France is a little different than here in America.
“French schools are usually smaller than American schools. For example, the school where I worked has only seven classes,” Joubert said. “As a consequence, in France you can find several schools even if you live in a small city.”
Joubert explained that now she has two first-grade classes, a red class consisting of 27 students and a blue class consisting of 28 students. Each day, Joubert and her English speaking-partner, Carolyn Pratt, switch between the classes.
“I teach math, sciences, social studies in French in addition of the French language art,” Joubert said. “My American partner also teaches both classes, and she teaches in English.”
According to Joubert, the experience of teaching in a DLIP has been an amazing one so far.
“Never before did I think it would be possible to live and to work in the USA. I like my life here and I think I am lucky to be here,” Joubert said. “It is really an extraordinary professional, linguistic, cultural and human relationship experience.”
Of course, in coming to America, Joubert had to leave her family and friends behind for the three years she will be here.
“At this time, I don’t miss my family and my friends, probably thanks to Skype,” Joubert commented. “It reduces the distance between the two countries. With Skype you can see the people you love. It makes the experience easier.”
So far this year, Joubert has seen excellent progress from her French immersion classes. She said the students are very involved in learning and they progress each day.
“Now they are able to understand simple directions and they memorized the numbers, how to say their name, their age, the date, the weather, the colors, if they like something or don’t like something and a lot of basic words or short sentences used in the daily life,” Joubert explained.
There are basic goals the students need to reach, based on the 1st Grade Proficiency Planning Guide for French. At the end of the school year the students are supposed to reach the Novice-Mid level for listening, speaking, reading and writing abilities.
“To make myself understandable to the kids, I usually show them pictures or do mimes,” Joubert said. “English translations are not allowed.”
In January, students will be no longer allowed to speak English to each other during the French part of class. This will help them become more fluent in the French language.
“I think an immersion program is really a great opportunity for kids to learn a new language. They are young and they learn more easily than adults,” Joubert said. “In addition, 50 percent of their learning time is made in French by a native teacher. It is more than in a classical schedule in which only few hours a week are dedicated to the target language.”
More information concerning the Utah DLIP can be found online at utahdli.org.