With more than 27 years of teaching experience, Francine Varner is a veteran educator. But she is much more than that: she embodies the phrase “lifelong learner,” and truly strives to connect with her students in meaningful ways.
The Biggest Teaching Experience Takeaway
What is the most important part of education for Francine? She sums it up in one word: “communication.” She says, “My priority is to make sure that students and parents realize that I want to know them, and I want them to know me. We set up various methods of communication, and I tell my students that they can come to me at any time, for any reason, and I will be there for them.” When Francine works with parents of younger children, she makes time to meet the family in a relaxed setting (usually via Skype), and lets them know that she is available to give their children the one-on-one, live help that is often needed in order to reinforce new skills. She says, “I put myself in the parents’ shoes and understand their point of view. I make sure that I understand their perspective, and build a relationship so parents feel comfortable with me. They want their child to be successful, and I want to be a part of that.”
Fluency Across the Board
Francine teaches French and Spanish to students from kindergarten through high school, including students who are pursuing AP language classes. She is fluent in French, Spanish and Italian, and has first-hand familiarity with their cultures.
Fluency in new technology is almost as important as fluency in the languages that Francine teaches. “When it comes to technology, my children encouraged and taught me to embrace new tools. Through my extensive teaching experience, now my students and I both use instant messaging, as well as the use of video and Skype technologies, and I feel that I have so many options to help them learn.”
Long Term Teaching Goals
A critical issue for Francine is the long-term application and enjoyment of what she teaches her students, and as a result, she strives to “help them experience more than just the language; I want them to know the culture, the foods, the literature, and the opportunities for travel. I find out what their interests are, and then feed them by connecting their interests to what we are learning together.” For example, one of her students is fascinated by French cuisine, so Francine (who also loves to cook) and her student traded recipes and discussed the results. “We were able to connect on a personal level, which made our academic coursework more meaningful.”
While she currently lives in England, Francine has lived all over the world, and has teaching experience in both Europe and the United States. She believes this is an asset, because she is able to integrate the best aspects of both systems of learning, and apply them to her work with students at Laurel Springs. Our school’s Assistant Director of Education for Teacher Services, Diane Elliott, says that Francine is “a true linguist and an amazing teacher.”
Francine’s wish is that what she teaches her students “will continue after I am no longer their teacher. This is very exciting to me: I want to be the key that opens the door for them.”