On Wednesday, March 23, 2016, Deputy Cultural Counselor Thomas Michelon conferred the medal of the Chevaliers dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques on Cecile Acakpo-Satchivi, Edith Boncompain, Marie Bouteillon and Régine Latortue. The award was presented during a ceremony held at Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York.
As Deputy Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy, I am delighted to welcome you this evening as we honor four exceptional educators and scholars with the insignia of Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Academiques. This award was founded in 1808 by Napoleon Bonaparte to recognize devotion and accomplishment in the areas of teaching, scholarship and research.
It’s of course a time for celebration, but also a time for mourning. As you all know, Brussels hasbeen struck by an attack of blind violence and terror. In solidarity with the people of Belgium, let’s have a moment of silence and respect for all the victims.
Now let’s go back to our event.
Cecile Acakpo-Satchivi, Edith Boncompain, Marie Bouteillon and Régine Latortue, in addition to all of your unique accomplishments, each of you has allowed legions of readers and students to enjoy the fruits of bilingualism, whether it has been by developing bilingual programs, implementing language courses, or studying and translating works.
Developing programs that give access to bilingual education and supporting literature in translation are at the core of our mission here at the French Embassy. So I am particularly thrilled to honor each of you tonight.
I will begin with Cecile Acakpo-Satchivi.
Since graduating with a degree in English literature at the Université of Dakar, you have dedicated all of your energy to teaching. After a master’s degree in education at St. John’s University in New York, you began working at the Lycée français de New York and soon after became a member of the English faculty where you were responsible for teaching English to the school’s non-native speakers.
You convinced the school to create a program dedicated to English as a second language for students in Grades 2 through 5. This is where you truly found your calling.
Through your work you gave many children access to the unique opportunities provided by a bilingual education. And, furthermore, you were a gifted and much loved teacher. Those who were lucky enough to work alongside you describe you as warm and magnanimous. Your generous nature mirrors your professional ethic.
For you, what is not given is lost, and I believe that it is by helping others that you fulfill your calling. Your whole life you have lived by these values. Not only through your teaching, but also through your position as a member of the board of the Société des Professeurs Français et Francophone d’Amérique (SPFFA), you have helped to strengthen the relationship between France and the United States. You are a person who keeps the French language moving forward.
Dear Cecile Acakpo-Satchivi, your kindness and your relentless energy as a teacher helped you give to your students the tools they needed to succeed. Your joie de vivre and your dynamism infuse all aspects of your life. Most importantly, you spend this time giving to others. You are also a member of the choir Les Voix de la Bonne Nouvelle and perform in both Creole and French to the delight of your church’s parishioners. Your curiosity, energy, and altruism are at the core of your success as an educator. Your work to improve bilingual education is invaluable. You are a model educator and passionate individual.
For all these reasons we are honored to present to you the insignia of the Palmes Académiques.
Cecile Acakpo-Satchivi, au nom du Gouvernement Français, je vous fais Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques.
And now, Edith Boncompain.
Since you arrived in New York nearly ten years ago, you have accomplished so much. Your drive and ambition took you from teaching in two institutions to directing one, and finally to becoming Vice President of Education at the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF). You are not only an accomplished educator, you are also a natural leader.
When you started working at the Lyceum Kennedy in New York, you didn’t limit your role as a teacher to conventional teaching methods. You made it a priority to expand your students’ horizons with each activity: from introducing children to origami, traditional dances from around the world and even gastronomy. You have enriched the educational experience while promoting open-mindedness to different cultures and customs.
Later, when you left the Lyceum for the International School of New York, your impressive qualities as an organizer allowed you to become Coordinator of the elementary school in addition to your responsibilities as a teacher. There, you have helped strengthen the French-English bilingual program. Your vision and expertise made you an example to follow.
Your leadership qualities were so well respected among French educational institutions in New York, that when the New York French American Charter School (NYFACS) needed help, you were called to the rescue! Despite initial challenges, you persevered and were able to help elevate the school’s rating. By the time you left, NYFACS was considered one of the best Charter Schools in the City!
Your work has left a lasting positive mark. You have lifted the school’s reputation and helped the school to become an important player in the bilingual academic network.
This remarkable list of achievements, eventually led you to your role as Vice President of thet Education Department at the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF). At FIAF, you enriched already enriched existing programs, and implemented new ones, like an e-learning language program. You also developed a continuing education program for teachers to evolve professionally. As you have proven throughout your career, you are a forward thinker. You constantly find new ways to improve, innovate and uplift everyone around you.
Edith Boncompain, you have fought to constantly challenge and innovate. Your contributions to teacher training and bilingual education are invaluable. For all of these reasons it is an honor to present you with this award.
Edith Boncompain, au nom du Gouvernement Français, je vous fais Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académique.
And now, Marie Bouteillon.
It is impossible to talk about bilingual education in New York without mentioning Marie Bouteillon. Since our first exchanges with you ten years ago, we have watched your involvement with bilingual education grow and in turn witnessed a phenomenal expansion of French dual language programs in New York City and other cities in the U.S.
Marie Bouteillon, I think it is safe to say that your interest in bilingual education started when your family moved from France to the United States. You were seven. You attended an American school for four years, while at the same time your mother continued to speak French to you at home. After four years in the United States, your family moved back to France and you attended a dual language school, «l’ Ecole Active Bilingue, Jeannine Manuel » in Paris. This experience made you a truly bilingual, biliterate, and bicultural person. It also gave you a first-hand experience and a deep understanding of what it is to be a bilingual child.
You decided to pursue your education at McGill University in Montreal where you graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science. After graduating, you taught English in Shanghai for one year before returning to the United States to complete your master’s in bilingual education at Teacher’s College.
In 2007, you founded the award-winning French dual language program at PS58 in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. It was the first time in the history of New York City Public Schools that a French DLP was offered. This program inspired a revolution for French bilingual education in the US. Many cities have now embarked on French bilingual education. This all started with you. Through this first program, several hundred French families have benefited from a bilingual education. The program now boasts 350 students and is a model for many schools. It has had an enormous impact on the French community. In fact, Carroll Gardens is now called “The Little Paris”! It’s true.
As a French dual language teacher, you took on many responsibilities from program coordinator to teacher recruitment and mentor, professional development, and many more which you have carried out with exceptional professionalism and a commitment to quality for your students and colleagues. Moreover, you helped create a new French track in the Masters of Bilingual Education offered at Hunter College, thus training many new teachers who join the ranks of the bilingual revolution. Knowing how difficult it is to find enough qualified teachers, we cannot thank you enough for this new possibility.
In addition to your abilities as a teacher and a mentor, you have an extraordinary talent for creating engaging curriculum across all grade levels. You draw upon a deep knowledge of bilingual education as well as the learner’s academic, social, and developmental needs to write units of study for all subject areas. The best evidence of your success as a teacher and curriculum designer can be seen in the high level of engagement and achievement of the students you work with.
In 2013 you were selected one of “50 Talents” in the United States by France-Amérique. It is no surprise that many news media have written about you or visited your classroom with their cameras and microphones. the French TV channel TF1 filmed in your class on the very first day of the French dual language program at PS58 and broadcast to millions of viewers during the 8pm news. And it did not stop there, the New York Times, AFP, The Wall Street Journal, and more. You have achieved, and continue to accomplish, a truly amazing feat in broadening bilingualism and intercultural understanding through second language acquisition, starting at the most opportune and crucial moment in peoples’ lives: their childhood. We are delighted to see that you have now embarked in a new endeavor, opening your own consulting practice and serving school communities around the country.
Dear Marie Bouteillon, I am pleased to recognize your work and more generally, your contribution to bilingual education by conferring on you the medal of Chevalier of the Ordre des Palmes Académiques.
Marie Bouteillon, au nom du Gouvernement français, je vous fais chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes académiques.
And last but not least, Régine Latortue.
Your prolific career as a scholar of Caribbean literature and a translator of Creole, is a testament to your drive and passion. Through your work, you have shown a deep engagement with feminism, multiculturalism and bilingual culture.
Since obtaining your Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literature from Yale University, you have not stopped broadening your study of Creole literature from Haiti but also Martinique and Louisiana. As a native of Haiti who was exiled to France at the age of twelve to escape the regime of Papa Doc, you have continued to embrace your Haitian identity. For more than thirty years, you have contributed to sharing the heritage and richness of the French language on American soil.
As a professor of Africana Studies Department at Brooklyn College, you share with your students an often overlooked history of French heritage on this side of the Atlantic. One of your proudest achievements was to implement, more than 30 years ago, two Haitian Creole classes in the Department of Modern Languages. And they are still offered today!
You have said that Creole is to French what French is to Latin. A common root that eventually developed its own strong and evergrowing identity while preserving individual cultures. Promoting Creole means enriching language as a whole by adding a diversity of voices to the literary world. From its’ French roots, Creole has evolved and come into its own. Congolese author Alain Mabanckou wrote, “French has become a language detached from France and its vitality is equally assured by artists and writers from five continents.” Creole, directly testifies to the global, multifaceted nature of the French language. And by promotin it, you are also demonstrating the richness and diversity of la francophonie.
Haitian literature takes its roots in the country’s fight for independence. It is a literature that is politically charged, opinionated and, although related to French traditions, has a very strong identity of its own. This duality is omnipresent in your work. While remaining close to your Caribbean origins, you have also made it your mission to grow and teach in a different country and in a different language.
Through your work as a scholar you have spent a lot of time making female Haitian authors like Marie Chauvet and Maryse Condé known to an American audience. They have written politically charged books that address important questions of identity and feminism. Much like the authors that you admire and support, you have shown independence and strength of character in every aspect of your work.
Dear Régine Latortue, throughout your entire career you have helped strengthen the intellectual exchange between the francophone world and America. Through your work as a researcher, scholar and translator, you have had an outstanding career as a public figure. You have participated in more than a hundred conferences in some of the most prestigious American and Canadian universities. And your numerous writings, in particular the book Femmes Haitiennes en Diaspora, illustrate your expertise in Haitian culture and the place of women in francophone literature.
Your work and personality are a reflection of your culture, diverse and multidimensional. For your tremendous work as a writer, thinker, and educator, it is an honor to present you with this award.
Regine Latortue, au nom du Gouvernement Français, je vous fais Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académique.