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Laura Parker named NC-AATF Teacher of the Year

posted Aug 19, 2016, 6:50 AM by
Laura Parker, a French teacher at Burns High School, was recently recognized by the North Carolina American Association of Teachers of French as the state's French Teacher of the Year.

"It was a surprise, but a very nice one," Parker said. "I'm very honored to represent all my French colleagues who are doing wonderful work all across the state."

She received the title after being nominated by a fellow French teacher and selected by the NC-AATF. The award was established in 1993 and is given to chapter members who are dedicated to their students, continue to grow professionally in their studies of the language, and go beyond the classroom to contribute to foreign language studies.

Parker is a graduate of Appalachian State University and has been teaching at Burns for 12 years.

"I have always felt like working at BHS is like having a second family," she said. "This support has allowed me to become the teacher that I am."

She said the experience of getting her master's degree in Romance Languages through ASU transformed her teaching methods, and she credited her award as a direct result of her education. During the master's program, Parker was able to travel and study for a month in French-speaking Senegal, West Africa.

"Living in the country, seeing the towns, and experiencing a homestay in a rural village changed my perception of the world and has allowed me to share life in a completely different culture with my students," said Parker.

She has also helped lead student trips to Europe, especially France, which she said allows students to see the culture firsthand and take chances in practicing their language skills — a key aspect of being a successful language student.

"You have to be willing to go out on a limb and take a chance. You have to take initiative and think critically," she said. "These aren't just good skills for language learning; they are also wonderful life skills."

She has spent two of her summers in France serving in churches there, an experience she has found helpful in learning more about French culture and using it to improve her teaching.

Inside the classroom, Parker and her students focus on reading, writing, speaking, and listening, with the goal of leaving the class as better communicators in French than they were when they began. To reach this goal, she has students complete periodical reflections and evaluations on which skills they need to focus on improving.

Parker was recognized at this year's joint spring meeting of the NC-AATF and the NC-AATSP (Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese), where she received a plaque for the award.

"Ms. Parker incorporates expeditionary learning models into her lessons. Her students are constantly moving, constantly creating, and constantly making real-world connections," said Amber Nichols, assistant principal at Burns. "Ms. Parker turns her French reviews into 'Amazing Races.' She posts clues all over the building and has inspired other teachers to create engaging and active lesson plans. Varied instructions strategies that are rigorous and engaging are Ms. Parker's forte."