Gilbert Still Teaching French


By Abby Gawrych, Current Staff

For many students taking a French course at West Bend High Schools, Jenny Gilbert’s classroom was one where memories were made. Now, French students at Cedarburg High School are being offered the same chance.

While in West Bend, Gilbert taught at WBHS, Badger Middle School and Silverbrook Intermediate School, and was involved in the French exchange program alongside Christi Fischer, another WBHS French teacher. Gilbert now teaches at Cedarburg High School and has enjoyed many of the new opportunities that have come as a result. The Current caught up with her to talk about her new job and experiences.

How is teaching different at Cedarburg compared to West Bend?
The biggest difference in teaching is Cedarburg block schedules so students have four classes a day, each being 85 minutes long. I can teach all modes in 85 minutes–reading, writing, listening and speaking French. There are fewer transitions in the day and hallway commotion which is a plus. Another difference is a lack of diversity. I miss teaching in a school that has a richer tapestry of students. My first week teaching at Cedarburg I planned an activity that was such a huge hit in West Bend. The kids absolutely loved it in West Bend and my new students were like, “ah…we did something like this in ILA last year” and my heart sank. I was no longer a shiny penny that stood out.

Do you miss teaching at WBSD?
Absolutely! I especially have a soft spot for the current juniors at West Bend, since I taught those students in 7th, 8th and 9th grade sequentially. I also miss my resource–we had so much fun. It was often standing room only and I’ll never forget serving Lucky Charms on St. Patrick’s Day, hauling all those gallons of milk to the second floor. Some of them still keep in touch and I do my best to show up for them still. I was just invited to see some West baseball this spring!

Why did you choose to teach for CHS instead of WBHS?
The main factor in switching districts is my job was shrinking in West Bend. They already had two full-time French teachers and I was the third. I went from 100% (employment) to 92%, to 50%, then was informed I’d be 42% for the 2017-18 school year when I decided to leave.

What are your favorite things about your new job?
Due to the nature of block scheduling, I have every other day off. I love that. Often people say “there’s no such thing as work/life balance,” but in fact, I have proven them wrong and have achieved just that.

Are you still involved in the French Exchange Program?
Yes! I am involved, though the leadership role is the full-time French teacher’s hands. Cedarburg’s French Club is 100% student-led. The secretary plans the agenda, the treasurer respects the budget, the co-chair plan the activities… In West Bend, my role in the French exchange was purely to host and be a chaperone. The exchange program is Madame Fischer’s baby. She’s been the leader of that program for 26 years and could possibly plan a trip to France in her sleep.

Have you gained any new opportunities at your new job?
I have had many new opportunities in Cedarburg. I have proctored the ACT for students needing modifications, I proctored eight AP tests last spring, I substitute teach when needed, I judged state DECA in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin and chaperoned our students for three days there. We took a bus full of sophomores to tour UWM while the juniors took their ACTs. I can offer summer school French and tutor. I love (my new job) but I certainly miss my French Fries in West Bend.

(Photo courtesy of Jenny Gilbert.)

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