Schorr’s Passion for France Inspires Students for 35 Years

French movie posters and framed copies of French art adorn the peeling walls of a Samuel Phillips Hall classroom, where Natalie Schorr, Instructor in French, helps students learn French using songs, skits and crêpes. “Ever since I can remember, I’ve brought my French students to my house to make crêpes in celebration of [French holidays]. Sometimes we make croissants or omelettes or depending on what we’re reading in class,” Schorr said. Schorr has always been interested in French traditions, and her personal experiences with the country influence her classroom activities and spark the enthusiasm with which she teaches. Schorr said, “I have always been incredibly drawn to the sound of the French language and the country’s culture. The French make an art out of living. In France, money wasn’t the most important thing in life. [Instead], people enjoyed friends and food.” According to Schorr, coeducation was new and controversial when she first arrived at Andover in 1975. She started a women’s group on campus in order to provide support for fellow female faculty members. “We were in the minority, and it was even hard for us to speak up during faculty meetings. We were always scared that if a woman made a joke at a meeting, no one would laugh. It’s fascinating though, because although we were all finding our way in the beginning, most of us went on to become department chairs,” Schorr said. Schorr teaches French 110; First Level French, and French 420; Crossing Cultures. The love of the simplicity of French culture influences Schorr’s interactive and hands-on teaching strategies. “People could be respected for doing a simple thing like making cheese or growing some good asparagus. There was a man who was so proud of his home-grown asparagus, he said that you couldn’t find better asparagus in all of France,” she continued. She designs her own French classes, which incorporate French literature, videos and interactive discussion. “I love teaching languages from a cultural context, where I can juxtapose and contrast different ideas,” said Schorr. Several times throughout the year, Schorr gives her students a small taste of French culture through activities like baking and celebrating French holidays. “It’s been fun to see the evolution of my classes’ crêpe making. In the beginning, when I first started [having my students over], nobody would flip a crêpe, and lately, all of the students flip at least one. It’s really fun having them over, and I enjoy my time with the students,” she continued. Schorr’s passion for teaching stems from the inquisitive nature of Phillips Academy students. “Some students will start out in a first year class not speaking French at all, and then by their fourth year, they are almost fluent. I find it wonderful that they can learn a language that well in school within four years. Seeing these concrete results is encouraging,” said Schorr. “It’s also been great learning from my former students, from whom I can now learn. When one of my students, Zita Ezpelita ’83 was in college, she wrote a guidebook for France that I used on a trip,” Schorr added. “For a few years, I could regularly hear the voice of Sarah Chayes ’80 on the radio, broadcasting the news from France for National Public Radio. More recently, another former student, Rachel Stella, a documentary film-maker now living in France, sent me suggestions for movies to use in the course on France and Algeria that I’m currently teaching,” she continued. During the hot and humid months of summer, Schorr enjoys traveling around the world to places including Denmark, China, India, Senegal, South Africa, and France. “[My family and I] like to walk places; one of my favorite vacations was when we walked across Brittany, France, following nothing but Flaubert’s travel journals,” said Schorr. In addition to exploring different countries, Schorr spends her spare time writing French supplementary textbooks. “I’ve been writing every summer for about ten years. One book that I wrote was inspired by Parent’s Day. I wanted to find a way to help adults who had previously studied French lose their fear of speaking the language,” Schorr said. In addition to teaching, Schorr serves as Interim Chair of the French department, faculty representative of the Addison Gallery, Coordinator of the Abbot Academy Association, and a yoga instructor. “There are always new challenges so I try to live more in the moment. Fore example, at first I didn’t expect to be as involved in the athletic program, but now I love being part of it,” she said.