By Matthew Hamilton
French teacher Anne Jensen received the Hal Wingard Lifetime Achievement Award from the California Foreign Language Teachers’ Association (CLTA) on March 6. The award is given every year to one foreign language teacher in California who has shown excellence in the classroom and in furthering foreign language from an administrative position.
Jensen has been teaching French at Gunn for 16 years, and she taught for 20 years before that at Westmont High School in Campbell. Jensen has also been the Instructional Supervisor for the World Language department for the past nine years.
Receiving the award surprised Jensen. She did not know that she had been nominated by Spanish teacher Elizabeth Matchett, who organized the nomination and the letter campaign on Jensen’s behalf, so she was shocked upon hearing the news. She got the call while at a French restaurant with her husband; she initially thought it was bad news, but was pleasantly surprised.
“When I found out that I got the award I was totally stunned because I did not feel like I measured up to the other people who have gotten it, but I guess I got the award because I love language and culture,” Jensen said. “I am really humbled by the whole thing.”
Matchett felt that Jensen was well-deserving of the award and organized the nomination process. Multiple foreign language teachers wrote on Jensen’s behalf as well as former students.
“I admire what she does all the time for Gunn, the Palo Alto Unified School District and the American Association of Teachers of French,” Matchett said. “Everything that a foreign language teacher should have done in their career, she has done it. She is continually striving to make our profession better.”
Varun Bhadkamkar, Gunn ‘13, and a current sophomore at Williams College, took three years of classes from Jensen starting with AP French Language and Culture, French Civilization and Culture Honors and an independent study in his senior year during which Jensen was his advisor. Bhadkamkar found Jensen’s teaching helpful in not only the technical aspects of the French language but also the deeper social issues covered in her classes.
“Jensen’s teaching was particularly effective because her background as a native English speaker allowed her to connect with students’ difficulties,” Bhadkamkar said. “She found ways to tie many of her personal experiences into class.”
While teaching French and serving as Instructional Supervisor, Jensen has brought many new ideas to Gunn. Among them are portfolio assessments and allowing students to show what they know instead of what they do not know. One of the things that makes Gunn foreign language unique is the use of portfolio assessment. Using portfolio assessments, students keep all the work they complete in a portfolio. Jensen brought this to the French department when she arrived, and expanded it to the rest of the languages when she became Instructional Supervisor. Portfolio assessments make it easier to show accrediting committees like WASC what students do and track progress through the levels in foreign language.
Although Jensen has been teaching French for 16 years at Gunn, she is still inspired by the effect she has on her students. She tries to impart her enthusiasm for French to her students in the hopes that they will study abroad in college. What keeps Jensen going is “seeing the fact that hopefully students that leave my classes are inspired to go on in French and have some of the passion for French language and culture that I have,” Jensen said.
She hopes that studying foreign language in high school allows students to think of things from a different perspective. “I really want people to think about their own lives, and how a particular topic relates to their own lives and makes them see things in a different way,”Jensen said. “When you study a different language, you see a different perspective and I think that bridges differences in cultures. That is more important to me than learning the grammar.”