A Teaching Moment: Maureen Pearsall

A Teaching Moment: Maureen Pearsall
A Teaching Moment: Maureen Pearsall
Jessica Fiddes

In the eight years that Maureen Pearsall has taught at Delbarton, she has revitalized and expanded the French language program. She also introduced non-French speaking students to the joys of French culture and tastes of French cuisine. In fact, the nation of France and its melodious language could not have a more passionate advocate than Pearsall. As a non-heritage speaker of French with excellent command of the language, Pearsall makes the perfect role model for students learning a second language.

Through her lesson plans, she finds ways to establish her students' understanding of French vocabulary, grammar and culture through activities, with unbridled enthusiasm and authentic resources.

At Delbarton, studying French is fun. Boys play Cranium, row races, Quizlet Live, Kahoot, charades and Pictionary to practice vocabulary. They shoot hoops (literally) to demonstrate their knowledge of when to use which past tense with which time expression. There are countless skits, group movies and creative presentations where they actively craft the language and express themselves. Through music, they learn vocabulary and cultural perspectives. Of course, Pearsall sprinkles in serious lectures, notes, rote exercises, scholarly readings and essays, and throughout it all, her students develop their language skills and grow in proficiency week-by-week.

As early as French II, they are required in class to speak the target language. By French III and French IV, they make the leap, learning to tease each other in French, tell stories, make excuses and simply be themselves...in French. "It is a delight for me to see," says Pearsall.

Her students also learn to debate various perspectives on complex topics, listen to French news of current events and express themselves via poetry, persuasive essays, plays and short stories. She finds endless creative ways to reinforce their understanding of grammar and vocabulary. Her class is full on immersion, reflecting a foundational Delbarton concept: if you're going to get wet, get soaked.

As a result of her efforts, the study of French at Delbarton has enjoyed more interest, increased enrollment and (bonus) higher scores in AP Language and Culture. Although the College Board no longer offers a higher level of French (AP French Literature) many students move beyond AP Language and Culture to a course that Delbarton calls French V. Pearsall has taught all levels of French, and sometimes two levels of upper level French in the same classroom. She understands the importance of differentiated instruction and meets students at their individual skill and ability level. Anne Leckie, Faculty Dean, describes Pearsall with admiration as "flexible and creative, demanding yet supportive".

Pearsall also rebuilt the French Honor Society, inspiring other language department colleagues; All language honor societies now thrive at Delbarton and, together, host an all-language induction ceremony each spring.

Beyond teaching the language, Pearsall shares her love of travel with Delbarton students. She created a co-ed French exchange program in partnership with Oak Knoll School, is instrumental in promoting French travel programs and even found time to chaperone trips to Italy. Thanks to Pearsall's hard work, in October 2017, Delbarton welcomed eleven exchange students from the Lycée du Sacré Cœur, a Catholic high school in Yssingeaux, France, nestled in the rural foothills of the Alps. A Delbarton contingent had an opportunity to stay with French families the following March.

Even non-French speaking students and faculty have benefited from Pearsall's passion for the language, culture...and food! She moderates an extremely active French club that hosts French Cheese Tastings, Crepe Breakfasts (pictured below), and a Mardi Gras celebration that typically includes decorating the entire school. Each winter, the Club hosts a dinner at The Melting Pot, a fondue restaurant in Whippany, NJ. Pearsall regularly strives to create authentic cultural experiences for the Delbarton community, and adds her natural joie de vie to every event.

Two years ago, her teaching methodology led to an interesting perk: When Delbarton began the Trinity Hall renovations, Pearsall's was the first classroom to be remodeled. Her flexible-seating, innovative classroom became the model for all renovations to come. Leckie reports, "Maureen was selected because she values student interaction and student-centered instruction and the school imagined that she would experiment with and take advantage of classroom with the flexibility of different configurations. Her classroom activities are all about communication and collaboration."

Above all, Pearsall see her students clearly and knows them as individuals. She talks to them, jokes with them, earns their respect and often has been the first to approach a Guidance counselor with a concern that only she noticed, being sensitive to a young man's personality and behavior. As a colleague, she is enthusiastic and collegial, several times selected as a mentor for new teachers. One summer, she offered methodology lessons to a fellow language teacher to help strengthen his teaching skills. With parents, she is unfailingly professional, compassionate and forthright.

Many will recognize her voice as the official announcer for Green Wave Football and Lacrosse, and Delbarton fans appreciate that guests hear a woman's strong, knowledgeable voice representing our teams. Until recently, in her spare time, Pearsall also served as Assistant Green Wave Swimming Coach.

She is supportive of her students' accomplishments in a variety of interests, from the arts to forensics to athletics. Regardless of the activity, she is one of their biggest fans. Pearsall says, "I love watching my students grow in the language, I love taking them on a plane to France's beautiful countryside and I love observing them grow friendships through the exchange. I love what I do, and I feel blessed to be at a school like Delbarton where opportunities abound, the students enjoy learning and an appreciation of diversity is cultivated."

Delbarton is also blessed, gifted as we are with a teacher who has such a genuine passion for her subject, and who so readily shares her enthusiasm, not only with her students, but with us all.

"Merci beaucoup, Maureen Pearsall!"