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Blog: Thursday, May 17th, 2018

Celebrating Maryse Bonneau

If you have ever met Maryse Bonneau, you are aware of her energy and passion for French language and culture and her commitment to passing on that passion to younger generations.

She believes that language and culture cannot be fully taught within the confines of a classroom. Her belief and action go back to her early teaching years (1985) in James Bay when she took 18 Cree students to Montreal for an exchange. Her students experienced a Montreal Canadiens hockey game and city culture. Later, the Montreal students returned to the First Nation’s Cree reservation for an exchange of cultural experiences. 

In 1988, she moved to BC and began teaching in Mission at Deux Rivieres Francophone school and then started in the Abbotsford District in 1991 as a French Immersion Teacher.

In 1996, as a Grade 7 Teacher at Centennial Park, she organized a trip to Quebec for 24 students. Since 2001 she has been organizing trips for CDG Middle School for grade 8 students, averaging 70 per trip.

This year I am fortunate to experience first-hand a trip along with 74 students and 10 chaperones for one week with every minute, detail and situation meticulously organized and planned. Being in Quebec and hearing French as the first language is exciting and motivational for the students, but socializing with their peers in English is also. On these trips, students are required to speak French at all times and Maryse monitors and enforces this tirelessly with patience and humour.

Maryse has the respect and support of colleagues and parents, and I understand why she continued to do this for so many years. Experiencing this with students and watching them connect their classroom to real life experiences is rewarding. As one student noticed, “People from all over the world live here, and they all speak French, even the immigrants. I love how diverse it is and how old the buildings are.” Almost all the students, many who have not been away from home, on a plane or outside of BC before, speak of more travel, maybe living in Quebec one day and an appreciation that they know the French language and the opportunities it provides.

Over the years organizing and chaperoning the trip became more complex, with cell phones and social media. Also, she notices that she spends more time addressing social, emotional needs than in the past. Fortunately, Maryse has strong connections and relates well to her students.

Last year Maryse stepped back, but her legacy is living on with Melanie Trudeau taking over the organization. Madame Trudeau is living up to the reputation and shares the passion for passing on the love of Canada and French Language and culture.

Maryse set out to inspire adventure and travel and a love of French language and culture in her students over 30 years ago, and she is succeeding. Merci.

Vice Principal, Chief Dan George Middle School