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Listen to Leslie Landrum, pictured above in her classroom, introduce herself in French:
Leslie Landrum earned bachelor degrees in interior architecture and French at Michigan State University, and studied at the University of London and the Sorbonne during summer semesters. She also has a master’s degree in French, and has been the French teacher at Scarlett Middle School for 22 years.
When she began her career, Landrum thought she wanted to teach at the university level. But when she started working at Scarlett, she fell in love with the middle schoolers and never looked back.
She lives in Ann Arbor with her husband, Felix, who owns the French restaurant in downtown Ann Arbor, Café Felix. and their daughter Pierrette, and twin sons Sébastien & Alexandre. Their dog, Binou, is named after one of their kids’ favorite French cartoon characters.
Landrum talked with AAPS District News Editor Jo Mathis about her career:
What was your own experience like in French class? Who was your favorite teacher, and why? My all time favorite French teacher was a professor in Paris who took us on amazing architectural field trips. Her classes were so informative and exciting. She motivated me not to just lecture and traditionally teach students, but inspire them to learn and question things.
How hard is it to learn French, compared to the other languages? I think if you are enjoying the process, it’s easy.
How do you keep students engaged? I use a variety of teaching methods to keep us (me too!) from becoming bored. We have many transitions in a typical period. It seems as though middle schoolers have a great attention span for about 10 minutes. Then they need a change. This helps keep them focused. We also move around, sing, and even dance (when no one is watching). The students work really hard in class, but sometimes they don’t even realize it.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about teaching? About learning? I think it’s important to remember that kids—all people, really—learn best while having a bit of fun.
How do you stay organized? Pinterest & Cozi Calendar are life savers.
What is the most rewarding part of teaching? My favorite time is when my students get to a point in 8th grade where we are only speaking French and we are able to tell jokes in French and they get the humor! I still, after 22 years, love seeing the look in a student’s eyes when we are learning something a bit tricky and they finally get it. I love the feeling of pride that emanates from them. That makes it all worth it! I also love when former students come and visit me many years later and tell me they miss my class.
What has surprised you most about the profession? I am always amazed at how much we affect the kids beyond the classroom. So many former students will come to visit and tell me about how something I thought was little really motivated them or inspired them in some aspect of their life. We are not just affecting their learning in the physical classroom.
If you could change one thing about public education, what would it be? Less standardized testing. I do not feel they truly assess what a person knows. They tie up too much valuable time that could be put to better use.
What would you tell a college student considering becoming a teacher? Teaching is really hard work, but if you truly like the kids and your subject area, it is possibly the best job in the world. It is so very rewarding.
What do you like to do when you’re not working? In my free time, I love to travel—especially to Paris, St. Thomas & Disney World; enjoy my family, read; and cook with my kids.