How My French Teacher Changed My Life

How My French Teacher Changed My Life

The Transformative Power of Teachers & Xperitas Immersion Travel

Recently, we profiled Xperitas Board member and retired French Teacher, Jane Ditewig. 

Jane was and is a much beloved teacher at R.A. Long High School in Longview Washington. This summer Jane heard from Brad Carnine, one of her students from more than 20 years ago. He said we could share his letter with you. We hope every teacher who reads this letter is reminded of what an important job you do and how you all are changing the lives of your students.

Bonjour Madame,

I was a student of yours at RA Long (Class of 99’), and went on the French Club trip to France in 1998, my French name was Hubert. 

Anyhow, I’ve meant to reach out and thank you several times because that French club trip changed my life in a lot of ways. I actually didn’t realize how much so until a few years ago, when in preparing for a trip to France with my girlfriend I kept bringing up memories from my trip in 98’, even though I’ve been back to France probably 5-6 times since that first trip, but she eventually looked at me and asked, “Have you ever told your French teach how much that trip meant to you?” And, I had to reply that, “no, I hadn’t ever thought to.”

So, long story short, that trip is probably the first big catalyst event of my life. Leaving the country for the first time and getting exposed to the larger world made me realize how small my perspective had been up to that point, and started a lifelong interest in travel, food, culture, and history. I probably would have stayed in Longview my whole life, but taking that trip made me not only interested but confident that I could leave and explore what else was out there. I didn’t make it too far away, I live in Seattle now, but I have a few expired passports full of stamps and adventures. Went to college at the University of Washington, and Law School after that at Seattle U. I’m a practicing attorney up here now, but as I think back and trace the lines to how I got here, I really do think that trip was the initial momentum that got it all rolling for me. So, truly, thank you for being willing to take a huge group of apathetic and largely unappreciative teens (including myself) halfway across the world, and show us what more there really is, and that we can be a part of if we want to.

Also, another thank you and a testament to your teaching skill is in order because about ten years ago I was stranded at a ferry terminal in Tangier, Morocco, hadn’t even attempted speaking or understanding French in the ten years before that. Yet, somehow, like magic my brain reached deep down to the hours in your classroom (when I wasn’t doodling pirate ships on the desk) and I was able to listen, understand, and respond (a few French words, but mostly pantomimes and a small bribe if I’m being honest). Got our tickets changed out, navigated to the right terminal, and confirmed with the dockmaster before boarding that we were actually on the right boat. My little travel group gave toast to me when we got back to Spain, but I insisted they instead toast Madame Ditewig, her teaching method (including the Mercredi quiz incentive plan) for without which we all would probably still be wandering that terminal to this day.

Thank you again for everything you did. I wish my teen self could have known how important you were to his life then, and been able to thank you, and be less of a pain in the ass kid too.

Brad

Read more about Jane Ditewig, an amazing teacher and transformer of lives!  

You might also be interested in this post written by our Executive Director, Leslie Gale, discussing the value of our transformitive language immersion travel programs.