These are more comments submitted by former students of Andrea Grote’s that didn’t fit in the print version of this week’s Post Review:
Memoires de Mme.
As an adult, when I look back upon my education in the North Branch Public Schools, I can honestly say it was great. We had fun, we learned a lot, and we had fantastic teachers. All of them. I can’t think of any who were not good at what they do – we had a wide variety of serious, fun, unique and gifted teachers. All of them cared about us as students. Even today, when I have the opportunity to see any of them again, they don’t always recognize my face, but they do recognize my name as soon as I tell them. Mme Grote was one of those teachers and more.
For me, there was a special bond between Mme and me. It is hard to put into words, but she was more than “just a teacher” to me. When I think back on it, I was a junior in high school and seventeen years old when she started teaching at NBHS. She was 22. Honestly, back then, a five-year age difference seemed so distant, now, I consider her “my age!” I felt like at the time we clicked as student and teacher. And to this day, I can say the same.
As a teacher, she was the best. Everyone will tell you that. She strived to include the students in the classroom and the lessons; it wasn’t just Mme lecturing and us taking notes. French class was interactive – as it should be – you don’t learn a foreign language listening and taking notes. You have to speak and live it – and we did.
Some of my favorite class memories were playing Pictionary (everyone thought I was so smart because I got all the words – but she always chose the words in alphabetical order from the glossary – it wasn’t that hard to figure out!) I remember fondly a project in fourth year French where we had to create a newscast and make a video recording of it. We had to report a news story, create a “fun show” and also make commercials. All in French! I remember how interesting that was, but also how she involved us in the planning asking ahead of time how we would feel about it. Another example of how much she cared about her students and our learning.
Other favorite memories are the time we had the International Dinner and took the stage to sing some French Christmas carols. “Vive le vent” is not a funny song (it is Jingle Bells) but for some reason I started cracking up laughing. My laughter soon caught on – even Mme was laughing. All for no reason! To this day I can’t sing “Vive le vent” with out bursting out into giggles. This proved to be quite the chore when I went on to teach middle school French many years later.
She always had us singing in class, too, despite her declarations of claiming to be a bad singer and not liking it. Many of those songs are still in my memory today – and I can still sing every word to “Tous les Garcons et les Filles” to this day. She even let us sing “Le Cock et Mort.” Every adolescent’s favorite song to sing just from the title alone (and a song I refused to teach to my own middle school French students!)
I was also lucky enough to be president of the French Club and an active member of SADD – both groups she advised. We always had fun there, too, but still managed to work hard all the while serving the community and the school. She was a giver and instilled that in her students.
I was fortunate to be part of the first group of students she and Kevin took to France. We went in June of 1990. She let us be involved in as much planning as we could, and worked hard to ensure we all got to see or do something we wanted while in France. Of course this was all within reason! I give you the time some of my dear, unnamed friends were going to sneak out to a discothèque at night. Due to my nature of being a big chicken – I told on them. Mme and Kevin intervened, our friends got mad, but at least they were safe and not roaming the streets alone!
I have many, many stories from that trip – but I will share one that touches my heart. I love the Chateau de Chambord. All throughout my French career – I wrote nearly every French report on it. I love that castle, dreamed of that castle, wanted to live in that castle, and for sure, visit it. Unfortunately, our trip itinerary did not include le Chateau de Chambord. However, Mme worked with the tour guide and the bus driver to take us past it on our way through. It was on our route! I was thrilled. Mme was pulling some strings to make my dream come true – even if it put us all a little off schedule. Another example of her generosity and kindness.
Unfortunately, our bus driver forgot to make the turn! I think Mme was more devastated than I was. We were both crying in the back of that tour bus. All the while watching Kevin out the window yelling at the bus driver. Mme took the time at our next souvenir stop to buy me a watercolor print of Chambord. 23 years later, I still have that print. I have it framed and hanging in my house.
Her influence stayed with me beyond my high school years. Because I loved French class and Mme so much, I pursued a teaching degree in French. While in college, I still kept in touch with Mme. I spent a semester living in France and traveling in Europe. I spent another semester student teaching in Strasbourg, France. Mme invited me into her classroom to share my experiences with her classes and to show some advantages to learning French and keeping up with it. My first teaching job included teaching middle school French! I was elated as I got to sing with my classes, teach them about Chambord and the Eiffel Tower and all the things I loved about France.
Mme and I kept in touch over the years as well – either through letters, emails, or messages via my mom. She always had kind and supportive words for me throughout the years. She merged from being teacher to being a friend. I have been through some personal struggles over the years and she took the time to write to me and express her sorrow and care. I won’t forget that.
When I learned she had cancer, I was beside myself with worry and sadness. Quite honestly, knowing her, I figured she would be the one to beat it. If anyone had the strength or faith to overcome this disease, she would! Other than sending her words of encouragement and faith and offering my prayers, I didn’t know what do to express to this woman how much I loved her, cared for her and admired her. Even in her struggles, she took the time to send me a handwritten thank you or response when I wrote to her. She was, and still is, one of those people who will never leave your heart. She exemplified good teaching, a kind soul, and love – in all of her days. It was 24 years ago when I first met her. When I do the math that seems like such a long time to have known her. But when I think about it, it really isn’t enough.
Je t’aime Mme et a bientot!
Colleen (Bly) Spillers
NBHS Class of 1990
I have been thinking and thinking about a favorite memory of Madame, but I find myself having a really difficult time narrowing it down. She was my favorite part of the day; she was the smile I looked forward to seeing. I loved everything about her. From her warm smile and kind eyes, to her silly side that made class fun. I will never forget my first day of French. Madame had a big poster of Tom Cruise hung on the wall in the back of the class. She told us he was there for her to look at while she taught, and if that poster went missing, oh boy were we going to get it! Wouldn’t you know it; the rest of the year was dedicated to swiping the poster and hiding it throughout the school. I do believe it made it all the way down to the band room. After mocking horror at finding her beloved poster gone, she would laugh and laugh when it was found and returned to it’s rightful spot. “D’accord, d’accord you guys got me good!” I was lucky enough to travel to France with Madame in 2004. We were all so excited and maybe a little out of line in the beginning of our trip, but Madame knew just what to do and say to reign us in. And when we were exhausted and starting to get a little homesick towards the end of the trip, she knew what would cheer us up and get us excited again. She was always ready to lend a listening ear, a helping hand, and a shoulder to cry on. She was more than a teacher; she was a friend, a mentor, a role model. Madame, you’ll be in my heart, always.
Rachel Felde (Stefonick) Class of ’05
What a complete honor it was to be a student of Mrs. Grote’s. I absolutely adored her. I remember the listening tests we used to do. A bunch of us would crack up at the way the man on the tape said number “cinq” just about every time, and she would just smile and laugh along with us. French class was definitely a huge highlight of my day because of Madame. She always showed so much kindness and love, and had the patience of a saint. Her smile was incredibly friendly and sweet. Whenever I went to her with questions after class, she always had that beautiful smile on her face and made you feel as though nothing else mattered or that she had no where else to be but right there helping you. Madame Grote was one of my all-time favorite teachers. Prayers for her family, colleagues and friends. She was (and is) so loved and will sure be missed. Thank you for the wonderful memories, Mrs. Grote. I admire you and love you!
Gretel (Davidson) Trampe – class of ’98