Agnès Browning, a story of passions for French, English, literature and pedagogical innovations
Dynamic teacher and extremely attached to the Lovett School where she has taught since 2011, Agnès Browning invests herself in her role as a teacher preparing students for the « outside world » and carrier of the image of France abroad.
Originally from Lorraine, Agnès Browning studied English at the Univerité de Nancy 2. Her first contact with the U.S. occurred during a university exchange in Pennsylvania after receiving her Maîtrise degree. She then returned to France to continue her studies in English. Driven by her great passion for the language of Shakespeare and the cultures attached to it, she did not hesitate to teach classes at the Ecole des Mines in Nancy and the Université Paul Verlaine in Metz while preparing for the French national teaching exam (CAPES). Despite the intense working conditions, her will and her talent assured her success and with the CAPES in her pocket, she continued teaching France for two years.
Then, drawn to go abroad, she decided to take a year sabbatical. After a series of highly selective interviews in London, she was accepted to the exchange program VIF international education. In 2005, she arrived in the United States where she began teaching world literature to students of the ESL program at Norcross High School. Browning fondly remembers the welcome and gestures of friendship she received as she settled in. Several invitations, furniture generously loaned by the community were symbols of solidarity that marked her first steps in the region. “My installation went very well. The help of colleagues was incredible!” New to American soil, she quickly realized the importance of observing how her colleagues did things and keeping in mind her responsibility as an expatriate regarding the “role played on the image of France abroad”.
Pushed by her passion for her mother tongue, literature, and all the cultural aspects associated with it, Browning wanted to move towards teaching French. She thus transferred to the French department of Norcross High where she taught International Baccalaureate (IB) and advanced classes. Another motivation for this change was a pedagogical project. “I wanted to see how the great common values of France and the United States are defined, treated, perceived in a singular manner at the heart of both societies and use the French language to express that.”
After 6 years at Norcross High, she finally decided to apply for the Lovett School which she defined as a school with the same values and pedagogical missions as her own. “I love the opportunity to go above and beyond the academic preparation, emphasizing integrity, respect and compassion and especially creating daily occasions for students to put these values into practice.” Browning also appreciates the emphasis on use of digital resources for both teachers and the students, while keeping a place for more traditional education, as she offers her students ambitious classes on the major works of French literature. She also places a great importance on exposing her students to the French language and culture in an authentic way… whether to use all the resources available in the media or to create links with the local French network.
Always on the look-out for new projects to enable students to develop transferable skills that will serve them at all levels of their adult life, her short-term goal is to create internship opportunities in French companies based in Atlanta. In the long term, she would like to expand an existing project for Spanish classes: there is a house in Ecuador, where students intern and work in the local community on scientific projects. The goal would be to have a similar house in a French-speaking country in the Americas. It suffices to say that this is definitely a great project anchored on the field! To accomplish all this, Browning seizes all training opportunities that arise. In particular, she keeps herself updated on the state of scientific research on the brain and cognitive functioning for educational application. So, she took some neuroscience classes at Harvard during the summer of 2012!
When not on all fronts to improve her teaching practice, Browning devotes her time to her family and leisure. Like many Franco-American bicultural families a choice had to be made to communicate with the couple’s child. Browning chose to speak only in French. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, pursues her passion for classical dance and enjoys life in Atlanta and more generally in the southern United States, which she loves for the climate, the friendliness of people, and the simple, sincere encounters with all those who are interested in "elsewhere". Finally, if she had any advice for a newly arrived French teacher in an American institution, just like her 7 years ago, her words for him or her would be "Embrace the Experience."