An impressive honor has been bestowed upon deserving Maine educator Nathalie Gorey, a French teacher at Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham. For her many years of leadership and commitment to promoting French language and culture through education, Nathalie has been named a Chevalier-Knight- in the Ordre des Palmes Académiques (French for “Order of Academic Palms”).
“It really came as a surprise,” said Nathalie after finding out that she had been recommended for the award by the French Consul’s staff in Boston, who know her work as an advocate and a teacher of French language and culture.
The Ordre des Palmes Académiques, originally established in 1808 by Emperor Napoleon, is an Order of Chivalry of France bestowed by the French Republic to academics and cultural and educational figures. The recognition honors major contributions to French national education and culture by French expatriates who expand French culture throughout the rest of the world.
Born and raised in Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa, and France, Nathalie’s heritage is one of the most influential factors in her desire to share the French language and culture with students. She got her first taste for teaching French during the last year of earning her Master’s degree, when she travelled abroad from the University of Angers, France to the University of Limerick, Ireland and worked a part-time job at the local Alliance Française, an after-school program where she taught French to Irish kids.
“I love sharing my native language with students, a language which makes up a third of the English language,” said Nathalie. “I went to school studying three foreign languages, so I know how valuable it is to learn and communicate in a second language and discover other cultures.”
After returning to France and graduating, she took a rare opportunity through a partnership between her university in France and the University of Maine System to travel to Maine and spend a year as a teaching assistant at the University of Maine at Machias (UMM), where she helped start and grow a vibrant French program while immersing herself in American and Maine life.
What started out as a one-year assignment turned into a successful professional choice that developed into a long-term teaching career, and prompted her to start a family and relocate to Maine permanently.
“I am passionate about teaching about the Francophone world, opening students’ minds to other lands and cultures,” said Nathalie. “That is what is great about teaching a language – you get to also teach geography, history, art, literature, music, literature, and cooking,” she added.
Nathalie has nearly three decades of French teaching under her belt at both UMM and UMA, and through other secondary French teaching positions in Maine, including her current position at Mt. Ararat High School.
“Some rewarding aspects have been seeing students go on with French studies in college, even become a French teacher as a career,” explained Nathalie. “ Or teaching about the Acadian history in Maine and seeing my students understand the background of their own ancestors!”. And she added, “Taking students on trips to Quebec or France is also very rewarding, seeing the kids applying their skills and making those connections to what they have been learning in class, with the language and culture”.
Outside of school, she is the Maine chapter president of the AATF (American Association of Teachers of French), representing Maine teachers through their professional organization. She also serves on the Advisory Board of the Alliance Française du Maine as their pedagogical coordinator, and advises them on their cultural events among other things. Nathalie has also been very active in the arrival and settling of French-speaking African immigrants in Maine over the past four years, serving as the French translator for the Maine-based African newspaper Amjambo Africa!.
“I feel like Maine is the perfect place to also make connections, with the Franco-American heritage and the renaissance of French thanks to the African immigrants,” said Nathalie.
Plans for a formal recognition event and ceremony are in the works for this coming fall, following COVID-19 safety measures. In the meantime, Nathalie has received an official letter of recognition from the French Embassy and a medal honoring her lifetime efforts to promote French culture and language all over the world.
The Maine Department of Education congratulates Nathalie Gorey for her tireless efforts as a world language educator, as an advocate for French culture, language and teachers, and for this well-deserved, prestigious award honoring her hard work and continued advocacy.