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PCC’s French connection

Story by James Hill. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Whitney-Bradley.

Stedman Burroughs

Stephanie Whitney-Bradley

Stephanie Whitney-Bradley, French instructor at the Sylvania Campus, had a feeling something was up when a teacher overseas introduced herself via e-mail as her new partner.

“It was actually quite a surprise, since I received an e-mail from…Joëlle (Lopez-Shadeck) before I actually saw the acceptance letter, introducing herself as my exchange partner,” Whitney-Bradley said from her condo in France. “Needless to say, I was excited yet nervous, especially since it would mean taking a very serious next step—my husband quitting his job at Adidas. But once he heard it would be in the south of France just minutes away from the Mediterranean, he was much less nervous.”

Soon thereafter, Whitney-Bradley was notified officially and her world has not been the same since.

She was informed in June that the J. William Fulbright Scholarship Board had selected her for participation in the Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program. She switched places with French citizen Lopez-Shadeck, who is teaching at PCC, for nine months during the 2007-08 school year. Whitney-Bradley and her husband will return to the U.S. next July. The Fulbright program is operated by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States State Department. She is one of approximately 170 U.S. citizens who are traveling abroad through the program.

Whitney-Bradley was lucky in that she didn’t apply by the normal October deadline, but was allowed to submit a late application in February after the bureau hadn’t received enough applications. She filled out forms, garnered reference letters and wrote an essay.

“I was approved in early June, which basically gave us two months to prepare for a year-long stay abroad, not to mention we were in the process of moving to a new house at the same time,” she said. “In the meantime, I discovered that the visa process had changed in the last year, which would now require us to obtain a work visa rather than a visitor visa, and after weeks of frantic e-mails and phone calls, we finally got the necessary paperwork at the last possible minute.”

The exchange means Whitney-Bradley has switched jobs with Lopez-Shadeck, who is teaching her first- and second-year French classes at PCC. Whitney-Bradley will be teaching college level English in a technical program in Montpellier, France. The technical program is similar to the two-year technical certification programs PCC offers. The French students are pursuing mostly computer programming related certificates, which require a minimal level of fluency in a second language (English, German or Spanish). It is located in a high school called the Lycée Jean Mermoz.

Whitney-Bradley has been teaching French at PCC since 1999, but this hasn’t been her first stint at the college. As an undergraduate student, she completed what was called the “block transfer” program at PCC in 1990 and transferred to University of Oregon where she finished her master’s degree in French literature, spending her entire senior year abroad in Lyon, France. On top of that, the Tigard native’s parents met while both studying abroad in Paris. Her mother was a full-time French teacher at PCC for more than 25 years and her father taught English and writing for the college for almost as long.  Even her sister, a teacher in Grants Pass, completed her associate’s degree at PCC.

“Teaching at PCC has been a long-term goal of mine,” Whitney-Bradley said. “Both of my parents were career teachers at PCC, and as a result, I literally grew up at PCC. From a very early age I learned to appreciate what a community college represents: affordable and excellent education for a diverse student population. It truly is a teaching institution and I am thrilled to be a part of it. I am a product of PCC and am proud to represent it as a teacher, especially while working abroad in France. I am hoping to share some of our more innovative teaching strategies with my new colleagues while learning about a different educational system and culture, which I can then relate to my own teaching back at PCC.”

She hopes to establish some long-term connections between PCC and the Lycée Mermoz. Part of this includes a pen-pal program between their classes this year and hopefully some sort of exchange program in the near future. Eventually, she and Joëlle would like to develop an exchange between the schools. But first things first: Whitney-Bradley is just trying to adapt to her new surroundings.

“Overall the reception has been wonderful; the south has a reputation for being very friendly and laid back, and we are finding this to be true,” she said. “So far our routine has consisted of getting settled in the house, visiting Montpellier, an especially beautiful and charming city, and enjoying the local beaches just a short drive away. I only have classes on campus three days a week, and with seven and half weeks of school vacation this year, I can’t complain.”