Steven Boucher is passionate about le langue français and in promoting French language education in Saskatchewan.
“I think French education is important,” he enthused. “I think that we can’t just balk at it and think, ‘oh, everyone speaks English and that’s it.’ The question should always be how are you challenging yourself academically; how are you challenging yourself as a person? There’s a lot to be told within French culture, within the history of it, and I think there’s a lot of beauty in French culture.”
Boucher, a new French immersion teacher at Sacred Heart High School, challenged his Grade 9 French Language Arts students during the fall semester to create their own children’s storybooks and take them to St. Michael’s to read to the Grade 2 students. He said projects like this bring education alive to kids.
“I think as teachers we have to bring innovative ideas to the classroom,” he explained. “It’s not just something you hand in, you get marked and get back. It’s their own creation and it gives them pride in their work. There was effort put into this; they challenged themselves. If you can get a student to challenge themself, that’s when you know you’re challenging them in a good way.”
Boucher also believes it yielded big benefits for the younger kids as well.
“First off, they’re experiencing something different,” he said. “Most students just hear their teacher throughout the year and that’s not a bad thing because you build relationships with your students, but you also want to introduce something new to them.
“The little kids love stories, but when you have the author in front of you explaining the pictures, explaining why they did it, you can see that the kids are in awe and they really get excited because now they’re interacting with the bigger kids and it’s a cool thing you’ve got the bigger kids coming to visit. It works wonderfully.”
For Boucher, whose second language is French, it starts with the children, but he believes everyone in Saskatchewan can benefit from recognizing the role French has played in the province’s history pointing out the Métis heritage and the many French communities that still dot the prairie landscape.
“French education is our history; it is the foundation of Canada’s education system,” he said. “To not acknowledge it would be, first off an insult to who we are as a people. Secondly, we are a bilingual province. I think sometimes there isn’t enough credit given to it because we think only Quebec is French, or New Brunswick in certain sections, but Saskatchewan is very heavily involved in French.
“The reason I push French experience is because we have to remember our constitution is based on us being a bilingual country. We have to keep reinforcing a) our roots and b) where we’re going with that.”
In that regard, Boucher references psychological studies that indicate people who know two languages may actually be using more of their brain power and may even have a lower risk of developing mental illnesses later in life.
He also believes that knowing more than one language gives people a better grasp of language in general.