photo by Annie Lomshek
Politics, social issues, and health care. Food, school, society and traditions.
Topics like these are just part of an everyday French class with Madame Losey. She and her students discuss everything from government-funded massage therapy to why the World Series is a misnomer. She loves to help kids learn about her country and culture, and she wants to give back to America.
Laure Losey first came to the United States after graduating from high school at the age of 17. She got into an exchange program between Orléans, France and Wichita, KS through a friend of her father. She lived with a host family for a year, not expecting to stay in the U.S. after that time was up.
“My goal was to work for the American Embassy and drive a Jaguar, live in Paris, you know, that was my big goal,” Losey said.
Her father, though, had different plans. He didn’t want her to move to Paris because they had no connections, and instead offered to pay for her to go to school in America. So she returned to live with the same host family and attended Wichita State University for two years, studying international business but not finishing the degree. After that time she met her husband, and she left her host family and school to marry him.
Three years after getting married, Losey got her American citizenship. At first, she was a French business correspondent for the Coleman Company where her husband worked, using her French fluency and her business knowledge from the two years at Wichita State.
When she had her son, she decided to go back to school because it would allow her to be near him more easily than if she continued working for Coleman and had to travel. So when her husband was transferred to Kansas City, Losey started taking classes towards a teaching degree at the University of Kansas. She wanted to be able to teach her language and culture to American students, since she felt America had given her so much.
“The people that I’ve met [are great], I’ve had a lot of support, and it could not have been any better for me, so it’s my giving back,” she said.
Losey earned her undergraduate degree and was halfway through grad school when she got a part-time job at SM Northwest teaching Spanish, the only other language besides French she was certified to instruct. She taught in the mornings and worked to finish her master’s degree in the afternoons. Her son was in elementary school at the time, and if she had school and her son didn’t, she took him to class at KU with her.
Losey worked at Northwest for seven years. Then she took a year-long leave of absence, and in 2006 she came to East because there was an opening for a French teacher.
“I just love [teaching]. I love the students,” Losey said. “And [there are not] any behavior problems, and people want to learn, and [that] allows me to do a lot of culture, but yet still teach the important things.”
These “important things” include the basics of the French language, and for Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate students, what they need to know leading up to the test. However, Losey feels that teaching French culture is an essential thing that comes up every day.
“It’s not built into what I plan, but as a native speaker it’s easy for me because I know the culture to incorporate whatever you guys need at that time, whatever your question is,” Losey said.
For example, in lower-level classes she will have her students bring up a stereotype they have of French people, and she will rebut with a related stereotype the French have about Americans. One student suggested that French people don’t shower every day, and Losey’s response was that American people use too many products when they shower and it’s bad for their skin.
“Having [Mme Losey] for four years has helped me realize just how dedicated to her job she is,” said senior Molly Mong. “She always has the best intentions for us at heart. She makes sure that she works you hard enough to be prepared, but is also understanding when it comes to giving us a break when or if we need one.”
Senior Anna Witwer agrees, “I love so much about her. I really love the stories she tells us about growing up in France and coming to the U.S. and I also think having a native speaker as a teacher is a big advantage for us as students.”
Losey acknowledges that the only way to truly get a sense of the culture in any language class is if the teacher is a native speaker. She also recognizes that having lived in the U.S. for so long, and having a son go through the high school process, helps her better know high school aged kids and American high school since it differs in so many ways from French high school. It is so important to Losey to teach her culture because in the end, teaching is her way to give back.
“It’s my giving back to the U.S., teaching my country, culture, language,” she said. “America’s been very good to me.”
Losey loves being a part of American high school and interacting every day with American kids. To her, the students are the best part and it’s important to her to teach them, but also learn from them every day. If anyone is wondering about an issue during one of her classes, they drop everything so they can discuss it and Losey can answer whatever questions they have. The essential part of giving back for her is to give her students a knowledge of French culture that is as complete as possible.
“I probably appreciate [the students] more now that I don’t have a teenager at home,” Losey said. “I’m enjoying being in high school.”