The Influence of a Word as Simple as “Croissant”
When Mrs. Alisa Trachtenberg was just a fourth grader, she heard the word “croissant.” Enamored, she began her journey with the French language, not realizing that by the age of 14, she’d find herself in Canada pursuing her desire to learn the language.
Besides scoring herself a job in France, she also had the opportunity to work in New York City, this year being her sixth. Juggling both the role of a teacher while promoting french and francophone music has her both correcting students’ papers and composing many of her own. With the company, she has had the chance to manage a Grammy Award winning band of the 90s known as “Deep Forest.” She recalls her job having been changed by the Internet, even back then:
“We used to work with all the big bands. Now they have the internet and everything but before they had the internet, you actually had to go and call if you wanted a record somewhere, or [we] sold in a shop.”
Sometimes, this great of an impact by innovation creates some jobs to not support people as they did before, like Trachtenberg, who has found this change to be the main reason for her career at Bethel High School. “There’s not too many jobs to do when you like French,” she says.
Regardless of this fact, a great influence for her was her school with “the most amazing teachers…everyone who went to the Ivy’s, were all [maybe] social workers or teachers.” The impact a great teacher can make can leave unforgettable memories through their passion for their job, forming role models for the next generation.
From her experience, a passion does not require an adjustment to identical values if they could never be your own. She would’ve had every reason to live in France: the country side, the “slower pace” as she refers to the lifestyle, and, of course, the food.
The turn off for her is the conformist society and different philosophy of her own. From her experiences in France, Trachtenberg sees the country to have a perspective of, “one doesn’t do this, you shouldn’t do this, you shouldn’t do that,” type. But in the long run, each culture will have its failures and successes, but as people it is our responsibility to find ideas to appreciate, including that of our own culture along the way.
Through her findings, of anything from the French language to appreciating cultural diversity, she is able to bring the best into her classroom each day. Her teaching strategies in order to “make it real” include conducting student exchanges, video calling through services like Skype, pen-pals, and authentic games of the French culture.
Being a teacher, her strategy in making something memorable for the students is to make it enjoyable. The great feeling of seeing a student enjoying class enough to make it a memory and an experience will pay off. No student will want to remember verb conjugations, but they will definitely jump at the idea of saying, “Oh, yeah, and then we had those French students in our class.”
The ultimate objective is to love a subject enough to take it further on your own and make the learning experience worthwhile. Trachtenberg, herself, boasts about her most recent class Skype activity she had with the daughter and son of a girl she met on a boat in Canada when Trachtenberg was 15, which has now been her friend for about 30 years.
Nowadays, such a passion and motivation is rare, as she considers it to be more of a “societal view.” The only real emphasis the study of world languages get is its title of being a “core class” throughout school districts. In other words, “when push comes to shove,” as she calls it, no one is willing to take it a next step further. Then, there isn’t always much to look for in regards to the relationship of world languages and the school system, since sports activities are the next main focus.
Regardless, her unconditional love for language has had her to explore much Spanish, which she also teaches to students here at BHS. She also remarked on how much she loves to speak Italian. Her love for language has taken her anywhere and everywhere from France to Portugal to the Dominican. Her family also tags along on her travel of the world, so they don’t fall behind on their languages; her brother utilizes his high school French to get by, while her daughter is close to fluent.
Her final statement that should impact us all: “Those are some of the reasons to be able to communicate with more people, especially in a world that’s becoming smaller.”
As the French would say, “Bien dit!”