Interview

Angélique Aristondo
Teacher of French

Angelique Aristondo: Le Sallay Academy's model is a dream come true for any French student

Angelique Aristondo taught French at the University of Columbia and University of Pennsylvania. Now she brings her expertise to blended learning environment at the Le Sallay Academy.

What is your teaching background, and what drew you to Le Sallay’s blended learning model?

I have designed and taught French courses at all levels of proficiency since 2012. At the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, the City University of New York, and Fordham University, I taught courses for the French language undergraduate curriculum. At the City College of New York, Hunter College, and Saint John’s University, I designed Advanced Language through Content course syllabi, which included Advanced Conversation, French Culture Through Paris, and Advanced Grammar. When teaching at the University of Pennsylvania during the pandemic, I achieved my goal of bringing the sense of community underpinning my in-person classes to the online environment. I also designed a wealth of activities tailored to the needs of students learning the language online. At Penn, the whole semester took place online, and even though the students learned a great deal, I also felt that a degree of in-person interactions would have enhanced their learning experience. Le Sallay’s blended learning model brings together the best of in-person and online environments. In addition, many on-site sessions will take place in France. The students will thus have the opportunity to regularly immerse in French culture and history during their stays at Le Sallay, which is optimal for effective learning. This model is a dream come true for any student learning French!

What is your teaching philosophy? 

My primary goal as a teaching faculty is to organize each course as a site of cooperative learning in which each participant confidently builds their voice in French. As members of the same French-speaking community, students bring their language skills to the next level by interacting with one another and myself; by interacting with the French-speaking world; and by feeling actively listened to. I prepare students to become autonomous learners and speakers of the language beyond the classroom by designing and implementing engaging and communicative activities building on authentic cultural materials. I also believe that a large part of my professional duty is to earn my students’ attention by maintaining a high level of academic rigor and by ensuring clarity of communication and expectation. My syllabi and course materials are framed not only by the expected learning outcome, but also by a reflection upon the practical, technological, and emotional means involved in their completion. This perspective to teaching and learning is especially valuable to foster an inclusive learning environment. I am also committed to be a resource to all students by means of sustained mentoring, undivided attention, as well as thoughtful and generous guidance.

We’ve all had incredible teachers that ended up making an impact on our lives. Can you tell us a time when you felt like you made a difference in a student’s life? 

In one of the French courses that I recently taught, one of my first-year to college students had issues with the learning method. At the onset of the semester, she told me that she was confused by the grammar lessons and was too anxious to participate in class. She trusted me when I told her that I could help her gain autonomy in learning. I helped her manage the anxiety she had by providing strategies and practical tools, and by constantly reaffirming how capable she was. After starting the course with a failing grade, this student — who cannot be too credited for her resilience and unflinching willingness to learn — ended her first semester of French with an A- and the resolution to visit a French-speaking country by the end of her university years. Although I am not her professor this semester, she has remained in touch and regularly asks for advice. I am humbled by her trust and her academic growth fills me with joy.


What is your favorite thing about teaching? 

Learning a foreign language requires work and attention. It can also be extremely rewarding, since the learners can see their progress almost week after week. I will never cease to be amazed by how much the students are capable of learning throughout a semester and how they can quickly apply their new language skills in a variety of contexts. Besides, a foreign language class is a privileged space for intercultural exchanges. It is wonderful to see the students grow increasingly curious and cognizant about a new language and culture throughout their learning years. Le Sallay has a particularly international student body, and I look forward to discussing and comparing in class the students’ diverse languages and cultures with those from the French-speaking world. 

How is learning personalized in your classroom?

Le Sallay privileges small-group instruction, which allows teachers to truly tailor learning to each student and group of students. To do so, it is crucial to identify early on the student’s strength, skills, needs, and interests, which I do at the beginning of each class year by organizing activities during which the students share about themselves. I regularly update this knowledge throughout the year. Besides, I explain to the student both short-term and long-term goals, which help them take ownership of their learning. I also implement several learning methods in order, including project-based learning, as it allows the students to develop ideas and practice in ways that motivate them.

If you could pass on any wisdom to your students, what would you share?

I hope my students will learn to embrace challenges rather than avoid them, and that they’ll see challenges in the classroom as fun opportunities to learn and grow as a person. I also hope to build each class as a community of learning, and that they realize how much they can learn from each other! 

Nice to meet you

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