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Rae Morgan, St Peters Springfield Senior French Teacher

St Peters Springfield Senior French Teacher, Rae Morgan, fondly known as Madame Morgan, is proof that languages can take you anywhere.

‘The first time I used French wasn’t as a teacher,’ Rae confessed. ‘I worked at Diners Club in America… The enRoute card is a French Canadian equivalent and I was hired because I was bilingual. I helped Canadian and French-speaking cardholders when there were problems.’

‘So there I am in Denver in Colorado,’ she continued, ‘in the middle of the United States! You wouldn’t think you’d be using your French there. But I used my French on a daily basis.’

Rae’s path to St Peters is peppered with cultural connections. Born and bred in the United States, Rae moved to the United Kingdom at age ten; she spent a year in France as a school Languages Assistant; and moved back to the United States and, finally, to Australia with her husband, who hails from New Zealand. She taught French and English as a Second Language (ESL) at a number of Brisbane schools and worked with refugees at Coorparoo State Secondary College.

Rae joined St Peters Springfield as the sole French teacher in 2009. She now focuses on secondary French while fellow French teacher, Ashleigh Cutcliffe, teaches primary students. Senior program offerings include excursions to the French Film Festival and end-of-year Dinner at a French restaurant, and opportunities to participate in a reciprocal exchange program with sister school, Lycèe St Vincent, in Senlis, France.

Despite the program’s colourful array of opportunities for students, Rae is most excited about what’s on offer in the classroom thanks to a fresh initiative offered by Independent Schools Queensland (ISQ). Under the supervision of St Peters Springfield Head of Curriculum, Sue Grotherr, Rae has partnered with colleagues to undertake a transdisciplinary unit in ISQ’s Curriculum Innovation Project. The unit uses common themes to tie coursework across subjects together, providing students with practical frameworks for learning.

Rae has joined forces with History and Technology teachers in Junior High to deliver a unit about Medieval France. They’ve been innovative in engaging students in enquiry-based learning, setting them a fun scenario through which to explore their own unique interests to produce outcomes that reflect the aims of each subject area, which they will present at a showcase in Term 4.

‘The students have been blasted back in time and space in an accidental experiment,’ explained Rae, referencing the thousand-years-old monastery at sister school Lycèe St Vincent. ‘In order to get back into the current era, they have to learn as much as they can about that era. It’s a fun concept.’

To satisfy requirements in French, for example, students’ projects must demonstrate an understanding of past tenses and comparisons. Rae says the initiative engages and challenges students, providing them with real-world benchmarks for their work.

‘By doing this in Junior High,’ Rae said, ‘it gets the students critically thinking, challenging themselves and really understanding what quality work is.’

She says it also demonstrates to students that all knowledge is interconnected.

‘That’s how the world works,’ Rae argued. ‘We don’t work in isolation; we work together and we merge things.’

She says she feels blessed to work in an environment that values innovation.

Next year, Rae plans to complete her certification as a Duke of Edinburgh Award Leader. She also hopes to have the opportunity to chaperone students to New Caledonia.

The last time Rae visited France, in 2014, was as a winner of the Endeavour Languages Fellowship Award.

‘That was such an exciting time,’ Rae reflected of her three-week government-funded stay, spent studying and networking with other Australian French teachers. ‘I met some really inspirational teachers. We had that experience of being students again but also accessed great ideas, connections and resources.’

For more information about the French program (Years 7–12) at St Peters Springfield, contact Rae Morgan, Senior French Teacher.