Compatissante et inspirante.
I had to rely on Google for those words, because I haven’t been in a French class since the 1980s, but don’t pick up your phone just yet. I will share what they mean: compassionate and inspiring.
Both words were chosen to describe Coginchaug’s newest French teacher, Justine Plourde.
Plourde is a graduate of CRHS, and so many of her co-workers happen to be those very educators who inspired her to become a French teacher. Ms. Cashore and Ms. Kuzman: those of us who have worked with them know how amazing they are. Those who haven’t should be grateful that they led this devoted educator to find her way into teaching.
At one time, Plourde was considering a career in family counseling or psychiatry, until she realized that she could have the same impact on young people as a teacher, and as a French teacher, there was an added bonus: speaking French every day.
Not to say that her other interests have not lent themselves to teaching. In fact, Plourde commented on how that analytical perspective has better helped her understand new ways to connect with students. “We need to learn more about them before we can reach them.” Sounds like the wisdom of a veteran teacher to me.
While Plourde’s background in language is extensive, and we reminisced about the Mandarin Chinese program that was offered at Strong several years ago, she has a fondness for this particular romance language. She loves teaching the culture, and recognizing that it is one that overlaps with our culture, allowing for rich discussions of both similarities and differences.
That cultural awareness doesn’t just come from her work in Paris, where she was studying and teaching at the age of 19, but also through her trips to Quebec, the first of which came during her senior year at Coginchaug.
When I asked Plourde about her goals in teaching, she shared that she, “wants to be better than I was yesterday.” That is a very humble perspective from someone who has developed so many opportunities for young people, not only throughout her professional career, but also during her graduate work, teaching language in Mansfield Public Schools while organizing international potlucks to bring people together.
That dedication and sense of community has not gone unnoticed by her students, who often say that Plourde is their favorite teacher because of her ability to listen to them.
Nor has it gone unnoticed by Principal Brian Falcone, who shared that, “Justine is driven to provide unique learning opportunities into our French curriculum. Her passion for teaching and the language is evident in her work with our students.”
What does Plourde enjoy doing when she is not in a high school classroom? Well, she also brings her teaching skills to Cheshire, where she works with children age 3 to 9, and she loves rock climbing, which she describes as, “solving puzzles with your body.” Kinesthetic learning at its best.
When I asked Plourde to share feedback from students, she says that they often state, “Wow! You make class so fun!” Her response: One of appreciation, complemented with, “It’s important that you are still learning.”
Thanks to the dedication of this remarkable teacher, I think we can be very certain that, yes, there is a lot of learning (and fun), for the very fortunate French students at Coginchaug.