Published: Mar 20, 2012 12:56 PM
Modified: Mar 20, 2012 12:57 PM
French teacher Celia Dukes is unflappable when it comes to travel abroad. Dukes, who has taught at Cary High School for 13 years, jumped at the chance to take 11 of her students to Paris and Normandy last summer and plans to go again in June 2013.
As a student at Meredith College, Dukes got the opportunity to study abroad for a summer in Angers, France, then went back the summer of her junior year and stayed for six months. Q: Were you anxious at all about taking high school students to another country?
I had taught these students for at least two to three semesters. I would only travel with students I knew and felt comfortable with. Q: Why did you choose the group Travel for Teens as a tour guide company?
The main reason I chose them was because they allow you to set the itinerary together; it isn’t a fixed, set thing. They are very flexible. Although there is a schedule and a plan, we can change the day we do things if there is bad weather or something happens beyond our control. They take care of any changes to the plan, which is very helpful. I also had another teacher from our school, my fellow student council sponsor, who traveled with us, which was great. Q: What do you think that students gain from these trips?
As a French teacher, it’s the ultimate field trip. It gives them more of an appreciation of the language. Also they are able to go there without their parents and move around in small groups by themselves (with supervision, of course). It helps them gain skills and independence.
I think it surprises them how much they are able to understand. That was a big thing for a lot of them.
I also think they caught the travel bug. They started thinking ahead, like, “I want to travel abroad in college.” Trips like this open doors for them.
One of my students who went last year and is now in college, Cameron Bunch, was hired by the travel company as a junior counselor for this coming summer. They were impressed by his fluency. Q: You had another student recognized, too.
Yes, Lydia Nguyen doesn’t live in Cary anymore, but traveled with us last summer. Travel for Teens held a video contest, and (Nguyen) created a video montage of our trip and set it to music. People voted for it online, and she won a free trip to Ireland and Scotland for this summer. Q: How much do your and your students’ travel experiences inform your classes now?
I have them talk about specific things in class. I ask them to add commentary when we are talking about places and cultural concepts. Q: Why do you think learning a foreign language is critical for students today?
Learning a language opens up so many doors to you. You learn about a different culture and how it relates to the language. You begin to see the differences but also the similarities, and it helps you feel more a part of the world. I think it helps you appreciate your own culture and language. Q: Why do you like to travel with the students, as opposed to going to France on your own?
It is a totally different experience taking the students; it is so rewarding. Although taking the students means that I have to handle a lot of organizational things, it is such a great opportunity for me. I get to see places that I love and see that the students love them, too. I hear them say things like, “I love France! I love Paris!” I even see them feeling sad when they leave, which is how I feel every time I leave France. And when we get back to the classroom, I have a different sort of bond with them than I did before.