Teacher Feature: Stephanie Bairin’s experience enhances French immersion

By April Clark Honaker

In 2018, Lincoln Parish Schools began the first French immersion program north of I-10. The program called FLAIR is offered on a voluntary basis. Immersion programs give students an opportunity to learn their standard curriculum in the target language, and the program grows with them. The plan in Lincoln Parish is to add a grade each year, keeping the children in immersion through fifth grade. 

Stephanie Bairin, who is from Belgium, is teaching kindergarten at Glenview Elementary in the FLAIR program this year. Bairin arrived in the United States for the first time in July. She spent her first few weeks here completing a teacher orientation in Baton Rouge and visiting New Orleans. 

In Belgium, Bairin was certified to teach Grades preK-1 and taught kindergarten for 16 years before deciding to teach here in the FLAIR program. Bairin spent eight of those 16 years teaching in Brussels, Belgium’s largest city with a population of over one million.

“It’s a very multicultural city,” she said.

For this reason, Bairin became experienced at teaching children who spoke a range of languages, including German, Japanese and Arabic. 

Despite being a major metropolitan area, Brussels remains traditional in its education system, according to Bairin.

“In my country, you don’t use a lot of technology,” she said. “We use a lot of books and sometimes the interactive white board, but here in the U.S.A., they use more technology.”

Specifically, Bairin noted that use of websites is more common here.

“It will be harder for me here because everything is new,” she said, “but I am ready for it. Even if it’s harder for me here, I’m not alone. The team spirit makes me feel more comfortable.”

Bairin said she likes being here in Ruston because there is a supportive community of teachers and principals who are willing to help her if needed.

Bairin especially likes teaching math but also considers herself a bookworm.

“I like reading and singing with children,” she said. “It’s a good way to learn another language such as French.” 

Although Bairin is fluent in English, she said her English is not perfect and anticipates that the occasional communication breakdown may make teaching more difficult. But she remains optimistic.

“It’s always possible to find a solution to understand each other,” she said. 

Bairin is looking forward to getting to know Ruston and the surrounding area and to traveling a bit. She considers herself an explorer here.

“I would like to be integrated into the community,” she said. “I’m excited to discover the town, and I’m excited to learn a different way to teach.” 

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