Getting to know French teacher Blair Hopkins
Pathfinder: What is your job?
Hopkins: “I am a part-time French teacher. I do French I and French II, so I am here in the morning from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.”
What got you interested in teaching French?
“I have always really loved French, and I lived in Paris for four years. I moved to St. Louis from living in France. I have been teaching social studies for the last two or three years, and I really felt that I missed speaking French, so I switched back to teaching it. I have been studying French for about 18 years, so I have always been passionate about it.”
Why did you live in France?
“I have always wanted to live there. I majored in French when I was at SLU, and I did one study abroad semester, so it was about four months. I liked the city I was in, but I really wanted to go back to Paris. I waited for the right moment in my life to move back. I love living abroad, since I also lived in Argentina. I think you can learn a lot. I learned to take advantage of each chapter of my life as much as possible since it won’t last forever. In each place you live, you’ll have friends and opportunities that are unique to that time and place. I can’t easily visit a museum of medieval art or take a train to Switzerland anymore, so I’m glad I did it when I had the chance. It’s just like how I’m going to enjoy the Botanical Gardens and Shakespeare in the Park while I can, in case I’m not in St. Louis forever.”
What is your favorite memory from France?
“One of my favorite memories is the trip I took to the south of France during the first summer I lived in Paris. I went to a theater festival in Avignon, saw Bastille Day fireworks on the beach in Nice and pretended to walk the red carpet at Cannes. That part of the country is stunningly beautiful and that’s the one and only time I’ve been there. I was traveling with one of my best friends, which made it even better.”
Why did you decide to work at West?
“I still teach part-time Spanish at Marian Middle School where I was teaching full-time for the last three years, and I also do French tutoring. I was looking for one other thing that would fit into my schedule, and it worked out perfectly when I saw that [this job] opened mid-year and was the exact time in my schedule that I had left. I heard really good things about this school and this district, and when I came and interviewed, I really liked it. Everybody has been awesome. My initial vibe of it was the right one.”
If you could teach another subject, what subject would it be and why?
“I really like all the humanities, so anything with a foreign language, history, geography, government or literature. I love all of that stuff, so I would have a hard time choosing between social studies or English, but I would pick social studies over English.”
What are some challenges you face while teaching?
“The challenge of high school students learning faster than middle school students. Over the last few years, I got used to the middle school pace, so I had to adjust my teaching and my lessons to make sure it is the right level of challenging, and that there are things that are interesting to high school kids and not middle school kids. One of the fun things is being able to speak French all day. I like how the language teachers here speak a foreign language so much in the class, so that is the most fun part.”
What is your favorite thing about West?
“The character of the students. My French II class, when it was the previous French teacher’s last day, they had only known me for two or three days. They gave her this big basket of presents and treats to say goodbye, and they all signed a card. They signed a welcome card for me and gave me a West long sleeve t-shirt, which blew me away because I did not expect them to welcome the teacher they did not know. All of the kids I have taught have been so nice and made the transition so smooth for me. I have been really impressed with everybody’s maturity and manners, and how they speak to adults and each other.”
What is one fun fact about you that you want students to know?
“I speak French the best, but I studied a little bit of a lot of other languages. I have taken Russian, Portuguese, Italian, Hindi, which was really hard and Spanish. Another fact would be that I really like animals, so I have two dogs and a rabbit.”
How would you like students to see you?
“I hope that by taking my class, the world seems a little bigger to them. Whether I teach English, Spanish, social studies or French, I always try to make it really broad, so that you learn something else about the world. I hope that makes them more interested in another culture, language or a part of the world that they did not know about before. I want my class to help them broaden their horizons a little bit.”
What are your goals this year?
“My goals are to get to know my students as well as I possibly can, so I can be the best teacher to them. [I want] to just keep learning from them and keep reading and grading the things they do, so that I learn what they are interested in. Hopefully, next year, I will be even better at teaching French I and French II, and I will be able to make it the best way I can possibly teach it. I am going to keep tailoring it so that it is as interesting as possible to the students, so that they learn a lot from it.”