Humans of RV: Madame Pope

Une conversation avec l’un des professeurs les plus appréciés de RV


Photo courtesy of RVRHS French Club

Madame Pope (center) celebrating Mardi Gras in 2019 with Madame Heiba and Madame Michael

Madison Dutcher, Co-Editor, Student Life

The Humans of RV project is a weekly column based off of Brandon Stanton’s seminal “Humans of New York” project, which seeks to “catalogue the city’s inhabitants” through photography and brief interviews. RV seeks to expand on this project with our own “cataloguing” of RV students and an examination into all the unique perspectives here at school. 

In high school, I ended up taking a language because it was a requirement. I chose French because I had friends in that class and I figured I’m starting with a new language. However, I always thought psychology would be my major in college. 

I went into my French class in high school and I absolutely hated it. I didn’t know what it meant to conjugate a verb, I never spoke the language, I mainly worked from the book and the class and teacher were just boring. I went on to take French II, but it was the same experience. 

After high school, I went to the University of Delaware and declared my major as psychology. I was required at UDel to take three semester’s worth of language courses. I remember debating even if I wanted to go to Delaware anymore because of the requirement. I mean, I really hated languages. I told my advisor I wanted to take French, but to start from the beginning. At least it’ll be easy for a little while. 

I went through French I and had a teacher, Madame Hall, who was super bubbly and passionate about what she did. I ended up excelling in my class partially because I had already taken the course and because she was so cool. I ended up receiving an A all three semesters. I had three different teachers and three different experiences, but all of my teachers were wonderful and excited to teach the language which was noticeable. 

After my French III class, I was going to stop taking the language because it wasn’t the path I thought I wanted. Madame Hall came to me the last day of class and told me I couldn’t be done taking French. She offered me to go on a winter session in France. We would take a couple classes and live in Normandy. Madame Hall requested to do this, and if I decided that it wasn’t what I wanted, she would accept my decision. 

I talked to my parents and before I knew it, I was in France. It was during that six week winter session that my whole life changed. 

At the same time as I was doing my French classes, I realized that I didn’t love my psych classes as much, but I still thought that’s what I wanted to do. However, once I arrived in France it wasn’t until I started to interact with the people, eating the food, and living their lifestyle that it then hit me that I was in love with everything French. I lived with a host family, Rivfka and Alain, where I was able to indulge myself into the culture. The history, the people and everything about it I really enjoyed. 

When I told my mom in a Dunkin’ Donuts that I was going to switch my major, she was shocked to say the least. At that point I changed my major and went to France two more times. I did a fall semester of studying abroad living with another host family, Jacques and Jacqueleine. After I graduated from the University of Delaware, I did a full year abroad in Paris for my Master’s Degree at Middlebury College. 

Middlebury was my dream school. Thankfully I got in, but the school had a rule that you had to speak, write, listen and study only the language you were there for. If not, they were allowed to kick you out. Even the emails I would send to my parents would have to be in French. They would have to google translate what I was writing to them. 

I learned more in regards to the French language at Middlebury College compared to the four years I spent at the University of Delaware. It was the best learning experience of my life. You would eat in the dining hall with only people that were taking the same language as you. We had to wear a pin on our shirt that identified which language we were there to take. You weren’t allowed to speak to anyone else that didn’t have the same pin as you. 

I then graduated from Middlebury and applied to a couple schools, RV being one of them. Mr. Holland was the one who hired me and I still remember the interview to this day. Flash forward to present time and I have been at RV for 14 years now. I still love what I do and because of my experience, I want my students to feel the passion that I have for French. I try to expose my students to the culture and we go on different trips to indulge ourselves into the language.

I still love what I do and because of my experience, I want my students to feel the passion that I have for French.

— Madame Pope

Of course I want my kids to love the French language as much as I do. However, I’m going to let them decide what they want to do. I do plan on exposing them to French whether it’s reading French books or speaking French around the house. As of now, we are taking it day by day.