France Honors Three Outstanding School Principals

France Honors Three Outstanding School Principals

On Tuesday, May 10, 2016, Cultural Counselor Bénédicte de Montlaur awarded three school principals the distinction of Chevalier in the French Order of Palmes Académiques: Anna Cano Amato, Principal of P.S. 110 The Monitor School; Heather Foster-Mann, Principal of P.S. 133 William A. Butler School; and Lena Johnson-Barbera, Principal of P.S. 20, The Clinton Hill School. All three schools are located in New York City and offer French-English dual language programs. The awards were presented during a ceremony held at Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen,

Today it is my great pleasure to honor three exceptional primary school principals with the Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques for their remarkable role in the development of French-English bilingual programs. This award was founded in 1808 by Napoleon Bonaparte to recognize devotion and accomplishment in the areas of teaching, scholarship and research.

Our esteemed honorees, Anna Cano Amato, Heather Foster-Mann, and Lena Johnson-Barbera have both individually and collectively contributed to the success of bilingual education in New York City public schools, offering hundreds of children the opportunity to learn in two langauges.

Dual language programs are the fastest growing and most innovative language immersion programs currently available in the U.S. In New York City alone, French Dual Language programs currently serve over 1,500 students with 65 teachers at 7 elementary schools and 3 middle schools. Soon, the program will expand to secondary school with the first bilingual high school partnership recently secured with Boerum Hill School for International Studies.

These programs have had a huge impact on New York’s Francophone and Francophile communities. Their rapid success is a result of the synergy between multiple partners – the City of New York and its Department of Education, the French Embassy and its partners, a vibrant community of donors, dedicated educators, and, above all, parents. These individuals and institutions are part of what we like to refer to as the Bilingual Revolution! I am deeply grateful to the parents and educators among us tonight who were the first to grasp the importance of dual language education and have worked with the city and the state to ensure both their growth and success.

But let me return to this evening’s recipients, to their accomplishments, their leadership, and their vision. I will proceed in alphabetical order.

Dear Anna Cano Amato, you are a New York native who has devoted her career to education, both as a teacher and as a school principal. After obtaining your bachelor’s degree at St. John’s University and your Master’s at Queen’s College, you taught for twenty years at PS110 in Brooklyn before raising to the position of principal. A few years later, you were approached by a group of French and American parents who had the idea to create French-English dual language program in your school. This was April, and the parents wanted to start the program in September! Your reply: “Let’s do it!.”

In 2011, your school launched a French English dual language program that was to transform your school’s community. It brought its own set of challenges and satisfaction, and even paved the way for other schools in your district that followed your example and embarked on their own dual language programs in Spanish, Japanese, Italian, German, and Polish.

Under your guidance, this dual language program has provided numerous students with the rare opportunity to become bilingual global citizens. Your accomplishments recently earned you the Cahn Fellowship for distinguished principals.

And today, we would like to add to your accolades. For your leadership and vision, for your dedication and vision, we are deeply grateful.

Anna Cano Amato, au nom du Gouvernement français, je vous fais Chevalier dans l’ordre des Palmes académiques.

And now I turn to Heather Foster-Mann.

Dear Heather Foster-Mann, you were born in Jamaica, but lived most of your life in New York City. You hold a Bachelor’s degree from the State University at New Paltz and two Master’s, one from Adelphi University, and the other from Bank Street College of Education. Since completing your studies, you have dedicated all of your energy and efforts to education. You began your teaching career in Brownsville where you were successful in bringing your 2nd and 3rd grade students to grade level.

Soon, you began mentoring other teachers, and providing instructional support and workshops to colleagues and parents with the specific goal of addressing the needs of at-risk students. It was at this point in your career that you started to take on more leadership responsibilities, becoming principal of PS133 in 2007 where you quickly received the accolades of your hierarchy. You were honored, like Anna, with the Cahn fellowship for distinguished New York school principals.

You are now in your ninth year as principal, and have received many more awards for your leadership, including the Exemplary Community Service award, Leader In Me School Award, the Leadership award from the Office of English Language Learners, and even recognition from the Embassy of Spain for the promotion of bilingual education in New York City.

Like Anna, you were approached by a group of parents who asked you to develop a French dual language program. As clear proof of your belief in the value of cultural diversity, you accepted their request, and implemented a model dual language program in French in 2011. You opened a Spanish dual language program the following year. Through your leadership, you have given many children access to the unique opportunities provided by a bilingual education.

We are very fortunate to have you at the forefront of the Bilingual Revolution. For your work and dedication to the cause, I am delighted to confer on you the medal of Chevalier of the Ordre des Palmes Académiques.

Heather Foster-Mann, au nom du Gouvernement français, je vous fais Chevalier dans l’ordre des Palmes Académiques.

Lena Johnson-Barbera, you are a New York native, born and raised in Brooklyn. You graduated from Hunter College where you obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Geology and a Master’s in Elementary Education. After teaching for several years, you received a Certificate of Advanced Study in School Administration and Supervision from Brooklyn College in 2004. Not long after you become the Principal of PS20 The Clinton Hill School.

Like Anna and Heather, you were approached by a group of parents–there’s a pattern here! And, guess what, they also asked you to create a French dual language program. And so you did!

In 2012, you and your School Leadership Team set out to establish a French Dual Language Program at PS20. This initiative has been sustained by the French Embassy and your colleagues Giselle McGee, Heather Foster Mann and Anna Cano Amato. And thanks to you, PS 20 now has a successful growing French Dual Language Program. In September 2013, you even launched the first French Dual Language Kindergarten class.

Your school community has embraced your leadership and in fact, the students in your school, even the youngest, are in the habit of greeting you with a smile and calling out your name.

Dear Lena Johnson-Barbera, it is an honor to recognize your work and your tremendous contribution to bilingual education by conferring on you the medal of Chevalier of the Ordre des Palmes Académiques

Lena Johnson-Barbera, au nom du Gouvernement français, je vous fais chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques.