Tempe French Immersion School Reflects On Notre Dame Fire

By Mariana Dale
Published: Tuesday, April 16, 2019 - 3:22pm
Updated: Tuesday, April 16, 2019 - 3:25pm

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French American Academy Bonjour mural
Mariana Dale/KJZZ
The school offers a dual French and English immersion program and most of the teachers are from francophone countries.

Fire ravaged France’s historic Notre Dame Cathedral on Monday.

Teachers at the French American Academy of Arizona talked about it over lunch that day and Tuesday morning, gave students at the French immersion charter school a chance to reflect.

“We’re going to talk about a big news story that happened in Paris, who knows it?” Sandy Martinez asked.

Hands in the classroom shot up.

“I’m sad because it was a really old place people visited and memories they had there, but now it’s just destroyed,” said one student.  

“I’m sad and kinda want to put flowers on a cross,” said their classmate.

Their French teacher, Kahina Houhat, lived in France.

"This is a big loss because this is a large part of France's history," she said in French. Amy Shaw, one of the school’s administrators translated our conversation.

Houhat helps her students connect to French culture through lessons about the language and the school implements other strategies to immerse the children. For example. instead of a class leader, they have a responsable — French for person in charge and a baker visits the school every Thursday with croissants and baguettes.

“It's important to speak other languages to learn about other cultures to pass that on,” Houtat said.

Shaw explained there isn’t a clear English translation for the words Houtat used next to describe the value of this cultural exchange, but she compares it to having a wealth of knowledge.

The Notre Dame fire, though tragic, was another way for these students to connect to a place more than 5,000 miles away.

The French American Academy of Arizona
Mariana Dale/KJZZ
About 60 students attend yhe French American Academy of Arizona, a charter school, and the adjacent private pre-school.

KJZZ's Matt Kling contributed to this story.

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