The effort to bring French Immersion to Pleasantdale School in Estevan has taken another step forward, with the hiring of the program’s first teacher.
Emma Cooper has been hired to teach the kindergarten-Grade 2 class that will launch the French immersion program. While this will be her first teaching job, she has been in French immersion for much of her life.
“I had been in a French Immersion program since kindergarten myself, and I’m also from a small community like Estevan,” said Cooper, who hails from Dauphin, Man. “So it just seemed like a really good fit to start a program that I love so much and that I believe in so much.”
Cooper is currently finishing her final practicum. She completed a bachelor’s degree at Brandon University with a major in music and a minor in French, and she is wrapping up her bachelor in education in early years at the university.
Her parents put her in French Immersion when she was in kindergarten, and it has opened so many opportunities for her.
“There are so many jobs out there where French is essential or an upgrade. You can translate for people coming around. I worked at a local museum, and if we had anybody who couldn’t speak English, sometimes they spoke French.”
Travelling is much easier with French, and, of course, she never would have had the opportunity to come to Pleasantdale without French Immersion.
Cooper said the South East Cornerstone Public School Division showed interest in her after she created a video to send out to the school divisions in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The school division called her university, and once she heard about the job, she knew it was a great opportunity to start French immersion in Estevan.
The video came about because the university couldn’t have a career fair due to COVID restrictions. Many of the students in her class did the same, because they knew it would improve the odds of finding a job.
“Our university assigned to have us make two-minute introductory videos, explaining who we were, what we’re interested in teaching, and just a bit about our philosophy as teachers. And then they sent that out and someone at the division saw it and they called,” said Cooper.
In her video, Cooper talked about her background in French Immersion, her love for early years education and her belief that hands-on and creative learning is the best approach to inspire life-long learning.
“If you start kids off with a play-based sense of learning, they realize that learning is not only educational and academic, but it’s also fun, and if you instill fun into it, they tend to learn it for longer,” said Cooper.
She recognizes that it will be a challenge to be the first instructor, and to teach three grades in one classroom, while having all students at the same level of learning the language.
“But I’m excited for the opportunity it gives for the older students who might grasp it faster to help the younger students in the classroom as well,” said Cooper.
It’s a challenge she’s looking forward to, as she gets to start something at the ground level and see it grow all the way through.
The French Immersion program is an option for all students in the Estevan area who will be in kindergarten, Grade 1 or Grade 2 next year.
There will be busing supplied to Pleasantdale for those students.
Grade 3 French Immersion will be added for 2022-23, with another grade added each subsequent year, until French immersion is offered from kindergarten to Grade 8 at the school. Students will join the existing immersion program already available at the Estevan Comprehensive School for Grades 9-12 to graduate with their bilingual mention.
Students can still register for French immersion at Pleasantdale by contacting the school at 306-634-4210.