Throughout my 19 years of life and about 15 years of schooling, I’ve had many teachers. Teachers or professors come in all walks of life. Each leave us with something to take forward in life, all have an impact on our life in some way. My most memorable teachers all had a distinguishing feature about them – something that I remember about them even to this day. Mrs. Stanson always talked with confidence, and she was the first teacher who instilled passion and dreams into me. Mr. Sturgill, or just Sturgill to me, was the first relatable teacher I ever had: always down to earth and truly authentic in every way imaginable, a great friend. Finally, Mr. Corcoran was by far my favorite teacher; always teaching even when we weren’t reading from the Russian, Greek, and American classics.
Coming to GTL I didn’t expect my list of all-time greats to be in contention. I am glad to say it indeed is, due to the great work and personality of Sonia Serafin.
Madame Serafin is my French 1001 professor this semester and really one of the best professors I’ve had in quite some time. All the above mentioned “professeurs” are on the list due to one distinguishing factor; however for Madame Serafin, it is quite hard to pin point what makes her such a good teacher. From day one she made it clear that she will try to really teach us and help us learn French. To her, the grades don’t matter as much as her job. Accomplishing the task – teaching her students French – is what drives her motives.
Oh, and her motives. I chuckle just remembering them, when we started learning the more complicated speech of French such as liasons, and accent aigues, she started pantomiming. Making gestures, and dances, whistling, the list goes on. Each one stood for a mistake. During in class exercises when we practiced speaking French she would do these. In case I forgot a liason, she would whistle and draw the motion of the liason with her finger. The most amazing one is related to her jokes about the Spanish language, saying “leave for Spanish at the door.” Meaning approach French differently in pronunciation, even thought it might be spelled similarly.
Perhaps the most notable of Madame Serafin’s characteristics is her love for subject. I remember one class during which she had assigned a huge amount of in class work and just before we were about to begin, a fellow classmate asked her a question.
“How many languages do you speak?”
The response took the rest of class and boiled down the story of her childhood. Born Italian to parents who spoke multiple languages including French, She went on to live in England, the Netherlands, and America learning each new language as it came. She explained the beauty behind language as the “real life application” of what we were doing in class. Language is a state of mind, and really only in the advanced stages of a language can you understand this. When I finally passed the threshold in my mother’s tongue of Hungarian I, too, understood this. You no longer think in terms of direct translation to English. You think and behave in that language, forming thoughts and ideas.
In the end, the simple answer boiled down to 7; seven ways to speak, think, and act. She looked at her watch and gave us a sly smile, joking that we wasted all class. Yet, she understood we truly cared and dismissed us for the day knowing she had impacted all of us.