Love of language and life: a tribute to a great teacher [column] | Local Voices
From the moment I met her, I found Warwick High School world languages teacher Renee Campeau to be a Marvel.
Maybe that was because she didn’t speak any English on our first day of French class, and it scared me out of my mind. I later learned that she pulled that trick every year on the first day of school and, just like that, she had earned both my respect and a smile.
I would come to know her as Madame, and, unknown to my then-14-year-old self, she would become one of the most Incredible people I have ever known.
Despite having lived in an interesting range of places around the world, Madame Campeau considers all of them home and says it would be impossible to choose a favorite. These locations include Montreal, Laval (Quebec), Paris and Lititz.
In her opinion, though, home is not always a place: “(Home is) warmth, coziness, love, family and friends who feel welcome at any time.”
With that in mind, it’s safe to say that she’s created a home for many in her own classroom. Among the inclusive flags, colorful posters and considerate conversations, Madame has created a warmhearted, atmospheric safe space for all.
When I asked her what her favorite thing about Lititz was, she found it hard to narrow it down. She’s always loved her job and appreciated people she’s met through her work; she believes Lititz is the best place to raise children due to the environment and range of brilliant teachers. Although she’d probably never admit it, Madame herself is among the best and the brightest.
We talked about what it’s like being a French teacher and this was her reply:
“It is the best job in the world. I love to share my language and culture and teaching the intricacies of the language. The students are so special to me. They make me laugh and they make me cry (for their kindness). They humble me and they give me hope. My students keep me young. Over the years, I have met extraordinary people in my classroom and I am happy to say that I still meet regularly with several of them. ”
Madame was raised in the bilingual country of Canada, where learning both languages is necessary. She started learning English in the third grade. In her senior year of high school, she spent four months in an immersion program in Ontario, which helped her live and learn the English language.
Because she’s fluent in two languages, I was curious as to what her favorite words are in either language. To my surprise (because I consider French a gorgeous language in comparison), both of her favorite words are English.
“In English, I like care because there is no French equivalent and I love the meaning of it, the concept,” she said. “I also like the word snuggle because I think it is the perfect word for what it means. I like how it sounds. ”
Madame met me when I was an insecure, stumbling eighth grader, and her influence has helped me to stand proudly as the confident senior I’ve become.
Her way with words, compassion for her students, adoration for language and willingness to fight for change have had a noticeable positive impact on those around her.
I’m honored to say that I have found not only a teacher, but an Idol and a friend in Renee Campeau.
Zoe Graham is in the 12th grade at Warwick High School.