Andre Sockmack. Cameroon

Andre_Sockmack_CHFFrench Immersion Teacher, Midwest
Andre Sockmack enthusiastically teaches his classroom how to describe each other’s hair colors and the length of “les cheveaux.” The entire vocabulary lesson is in French because English is banned from the French Immersion classroom taught by this native of Cameroon.

He begins each Monday with a circle during which each student has an opportunity to report the weekend’s activities in French.

Averting crises and focusing on the learning in this urban public French Immersion School is all in a day’s work for Sockmack. And children flourish in his class, say his principals.

“He is consistent, and because he is consistent they trust him,” she says. “In his room, they feel successful.” Seldom is one of Sockmack’s students marched into the principal’s office. His mantra: “I have to help. We have to help.”

His principal considers Andre a model for students. “He takes his teaching role seriously.”

“Teaching is difficult,” Sockmack says, even though he comes from a family of teachers. His father taught for years before he died 12 years ago. “Teaching is a mystery. It’s not easy to stand in front of kids and say you are going to teach them.”

Add to that the changes he faces in a new part of the world. “There are a lot of differences. I am coming from another country, another continent. It takes a while to adjust.”

In Africa, his classes averaged about 80 students. The smallest was 45. But Cameroon students behave better and they have no power, he said. Asked if he had any regrets about leaving his homeland, however, he emphasitcally said, “No, not at all.”

Sockmack says his favorite part of teaching is putting ideas in students’ minds and watching them learn to grow. “You must really love those kids—and your job.”

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