Get To Know: New High School French Teacher Deanna Mudry

A profile photo of new Steel Valley French teacher Deanna Mudry

A high school teacher helped foster Deanna Mudry’s passion for the French language and French culture. As Steel Valley High School’s new French teacher, Ms. Mudry is hoping to inspire the same love for the language in her students.

Ms. Mudry grew up in Pittsburgh and is a graduate of Seton LaSalle High School. She studied French and Journalism at American University in Washington, D.C. before earning her Master's in Linguistics and her French K-12 teaching certification from the University of Pittsburgh. She shared more about her background and her passion for all things French.

This Q+A has been lightly edited.

What drew you to American University and your course of studies? What was it about that line of education that got you excited?

In high school, I always loved French and traveling, and I love meeting people and learning things. So, it was like, “Oh, it'd be great if I could be a foreign correspondent.” I was like, “I have to go to D.C. for school. And I wanted to move away from home,  too. So I decided to do foreign correspondence in French speaking countries, but journalism was not for me. I switched from journalism, but I still loved French. And then at the time, I was doing tutoring with refugees in the Pittsburgh area when I started my Master's and was mostly doing ESL. I found that I really loved teaching, so I kind of went from there.

You mentioned linguistics, as well. What's the key to linguistic study? And for people who don't know, what's the difference between studying the French language and studying linguistics?

So studying French is studying how to speak, read, write and listen in French. Linguistics you can do without knowing any other languages. It's learning about languages. How does someone learn language? My course was second language acquisition, which is, how do we cognitively learn language? How can you teach someone a language and things like that? But with linguistics, there's lots of things you can do. You can do sociology, sociolinguistics, or computational linguistics, like Alexa and Google. I was more interested in the how do we learn languages.

I would imagine that understanding how someone learns a language helps as a teacher when you're trying to help students.

Yeah, a lot. Whenever I went from the linguistics to education department at Pitt, a lot of it carried over because language is based in these linguistic things that we don't talk about that often. But they're still there.

What was it about the French language may or maybe the French culture that got you so interested back in school that led you to study it?

I had an awesome French teacher. I think like most people, they give you three languages and you pick one. I took French and I really enjoyed it. I love listening to French music and cuisine. I love traveling as well. I always wanted to go to France and in college I got the opportunity.

I spent a semester studying abroad in Paris when I was a junior in college. I stayed with a homestay mother in Paris, and she would make me meals four days a week, and we’d get to chat and watch the news. We only had evening classes. So, it was awesome. I could go tour the city all during the day and take weekend trips and things.

Was it fully immersive? Or was there a chance to go back and forth between French and English?

There were other students for my university, so sometimes we did French-English-Franglais type things. But with my home mother, she spoke no English at all. So it's all French when I was there and in the school it was all French all the time. I think one time my friends and I were chatting as we were leaving and the professor leaned out the window, and she's like, ‘Au Francais!’

What drew you to Steel Valley and deciding to teach here?

I really love that it's a tight knit community. I went to a school where we only graduated 120. And I think you only graduated about 100, too. I really like that. I want to be where I can grow into the community, become close with people and get to know students. And you also have a really strong French program to go off of. So, I'm hoping to add to that. It seems kids are interested, so that's really exciting.

So what can students expect from Ms. Mudry in the classroom? What’s your style as a teacher?

My biggest thing is French is not taking a test. It's not multiple choice. It's communication. As long as you come ready to chat and listen, that is the biggest thing that I want out of students. My mentor last year was always like French class is rainbows and unicorns, because we're going to be learning things, but it's more communicative. It is about building community in your classroom, learning about culture, sharing music, sharing food and things. Come ready to listen and learn.

What are some of your other experiences that you've had a chance to enjoy besides furthering your education with your Master’s?

The past couple of years I’ve mostly just been teaching ESL. This week, I'm finishing up doing summer school with some middle schoolers in Fox Chapel doing ESL. Last year, I worked online doing it virtually for a Chinese school for a different school. So, that was cool to see a bunch of different students from around the world and working one on one with them.

Any other passions in education or any other languages?

I love traveling. A couple of years ago, I had a trip planned to Italy and I was doing a gap year between my undergrad and graduate school. So, I taught myself Italian for a year or so. It's okay. It's not as good as my French but, but I'm pretty good in chatting with Italian. I really love that language as well. The one that I want to learn is Chinese because I ended up having a lot of Chinese students in ESL. I haven’t had the chance to do that yet.

Is there anything else that you want to add about coming to Steel Valley and what students can expect in your French classes?

I'm really excited to be here and meet everyone and jump right in. I just want students to know that I'm very open to their interests a and that's the best thing about French class. As long we're doing it in French, it’s fine. As long as it's not English. It will be a good class to find yourself, pick up a new interest. It's more casual. It's speaking and listening, things like that.

A profile photo of new Steel Valley French teacher Deanna Mudry

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