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French instructor toast of Sylvania

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Joelle Lopez-Schadeck, Instructor

Joëlle Lopez-Schadeck, Instructor

Fulbright Teacher Exchange participant Joëlle Lopez-Schadeck is the toast of PCC. Just ask a few of her hosts.

"Joëlle is an absolutely delightful colleague, both for the ways in which she illuminates aspects of French life and culture, but also for the ways she gives us a new perspective on American life," said Dave Stout, division dean of English/Modern Languages Division. "She has helped me to reconsider, for example, the notion that eating lunch on the run is a civilized thing to do. Taking the time to have a full lunch with rich conversation really does give a whole new perspective on the PCC workday."

Lopez-Schadeck, who has been living in Southeast Portland, has certainly impressed her own mentor at the Sylvania Campus, who has gleaned plenty of useful information, too.

"Working with Joëlle this year has been a true pleasure," said Sarah Bentley-Quintero, Spanish instructor. "We have shared countless laughs over the oddities of American culture (such as drinking coffee from lidded-cups while driving, walking or shopping), as well as fascinating and insightful conversations about the education systems in France and the U.S. After much sampling, she has also taught me to appreciate a good croissant!"

The French instructor’s stay at PCC is a result of her participation in the Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program through the J. William Fulbright Scholarship Board. She switched places for the school year with PCC French instructor Stephanie Whitney-Bradley, who is teaching at Lopez-Schadeck’s school in France. The Fulbright program is operated by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. State Department. She is one of approximately 170 international citizens who are teaching in the United States through the program.

"I’ve been greeted like nowhere else," said Lopez-Schadeck. "It’s so different from Europe and the American people are welcoming of foreigners. It’s totally different in France where you work on a more individualistic basis and won’t see people for days. We don’t sit next to each other in cubicles and don’t contact one another. We never see the administrators. Here, I must admit that my administrative supervisors are all so nice. They give me great support."

Her stay at PCC since she arrived last fall has been one of discovery of not only how the college does things but life in general.

"I was surprised people here don’t seem to stop working," she added. "As soon as you put your feet on the floor and wake up, you start and don’t end until you go to sleep. In France we have breaks where we stand back and relax. We were told America is active but this is super active." Joëlle Lopez-Schadeck, InstructorThere is a lot Lopez-Schadeck is adding to PCC and getting back as well.

"It’s been quite a change," she said. "I really like it. I’m not used to it. It’s a lot of work, but I love the contacts and responses of the students, especially first-year students. They have an interest to interact and there are more fun activities here as opposed to our curriculum back home."

Lopez-Schadeck teaches two classes of Whitney-Bradley’s – beginning and second-year French as well as a French culture class. Meanwhile, Whitney-Bradley is teaching Lopez-Schadeck’s three classes at the high school Lycée Jean Mermoz in the Southern French city of Montpellier. It’s a vocational school where students are looking for a training certificate for a particular career.

"I think there is a closer approach between students and staff here," Lopez-Schadeck said. "Usually in France we keep our distance with the students. Here, I was surprised to see the ease of which the faculty contacts between staff and students, administrators and staff; it’s very cool. I love it. In France, we have a sense of hierarchy."

Lopez-Schadeck, who has a doctorate in American literature and knows plenty about our culture, said this exchange has been a lifelong dream. However, earlier in her life that dream had to be put on hold as she and her husband, who is also a teacher, raised their three kids. With the children older, her chance at an American exchange opened up.

The family worked out a plan where Schadeck-Lopez and her two daughters would come with her to Oregon while her husband and son stayed back in France and would visit during Christmas and Easter holiday. But the real vacation and enjoyment seems to be coming most from her daughters.

"They are living it up," she said. "I’m so happy for the both of them. For the older one it wasn’t so much a challenge for language as she knew English and didn’t need to take ESL. She goes to Franklin High School and is doing very well. The younger one didn’t know a word of English and now talks like an American girl. Her teacher at Atkinson Elementary says she is doing well and is known as the French girl – very popular. For me, being a linguist, I was delighted."

Now that her time at PCC is in its final months, what would she tell another teacher back home who would have a chance to do the exchange?

"Go without reflection," she said. "You will never regret such an experience."

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »

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