Cherokee senior ranked 18th in national French competition

Jeff Bobo • Apr 23, 2019 at 7:15 PM

ROGERSVILLE — Cherokee High School’s Maria Howard was ranked 18th out of more than 72,000 students nationally who competed in the 84th annual Le Grand Concours, a national competition sponsored by the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF).

Students were evaluated for their written, oral and listening comprehension skills in French, with more than 72,000 students in all 50 states competing in the 2019 event.

Howard, who is a senior, is CHS French teacher Larry Justis' ninth student to be ranked nationally since 2014, but Howard is the highest ranking and his only student to achieve honorable mention.

"Maria is an excellent student and is ranked near the top in her senior class," Justis said. "She works hard to succeed at everything: academics, clubs, sports, etc. Maria has family in Europe, and I believe that being able to better communicate with them may have contributed to her motivation in French."

Over the years, Justis has tried to push his students to use French by making class fun and encouraging students to speak French with each other in the hall, at lunch and outside of school. He turned his classroom into an "outdoor Parisian café" to make learning even more engaging.

"I help students to make real-world connections to French by doing such things as coordinating lessons with teachers in other disciplines to introduce and reinforce vocabulary and offering educational field trips to French-speaking countries every three or so years for students to practice their French and expand their cultural horizons," Justis said.

Justis added, "Accomplishments like Maria's sort of validate my approach."

During Le Grand Concours, French students in grades 1-12 in all 50 states and abroad take a written test and compete against students with similar educational background for prizes.

Grades 1-6 participate in the elementary contest, while grades 7-12 take part in the secondary contest, and students enter via their French teacher.

AATF President Anne Jensen said, "I would like to extend my special congratulations to those students who ranked nationally in Le Grand Concours. They have shown a superior level of French language skills, cultural competence and commitment to French. It is my hope that these students will continue their interest in French and pursue study and travel opportunities as future ambassadors of the French language and the many cultures it represents."

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