Two CSI graduating seniors, Political Science major Justine Pinzone, and Science, Letters, and Society major and French minor Tara Meiners, have been accepted into the Teaching Assistantship Program in France. The two women will be teaching English for seven to nine months, with a stipend, in an elementary or secondary school, with the goal of improving their French language and teaching skills.

“I feel amazed about receiving this honor,” Pinzone said. “I had never imagined I’d be able to get in. I was very skeptical at first and when I first got the acceptance letter I wasn’t sure what to think. The program only takes [1,480] people from across the United States and Tara and I are the only two I know to be from New York, from having looked through the informal Website of the program. In the Academy I’m going to, there are about 15 other people and none of them are from New York. They are from across the states; California, Virginia, and Texas, to name a few. So as you can tell, the program is very competitive and that’s why it’s a great honor to be one of the select few.”

Meiners, who began her French language instruction at CSI and is currently observing a kindergarten class in the bilingual elementary school PS 58, commented, “As a freshman, if I pictured what my senior year could possibly have to offer, I would have never thought that I would be given an opportunity to spend an academic school year in France; even thinking about it now is mind boggling. Upon receiving the acceptance letter, I immediately began to cry tears of happiness. All of the hard work I put into my classes to fulfill my French minor suddenly materialized and is now going to be put to use. I am still in awe of the fact that I have been given this opportunity, and will continue to be in shock most likely until I return.”

The selection process was very competitive this year, as approximately 2,300 applicants were vying for positions in the program.

Regarding the criteria for entry into the Program, Carolyn Collins, Educational Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy and U.S. coordinator for the program, said, “We based our selection on a wide number of criteria, including: French-language skills (many applicants for this year’s program demonstrated near-fluency in French and also had a bachelor’s and/or master’s degree in French), teaching experience (many of this year’s applicants also had teaching degrees and/or state certifications in teaching), experience working with children or young adults, experience living abroad, the level of the applicant’s university studies and overall motivation.”

As they prepare to move on, both women credit the education that they received at CSI for their success. “I would say CSI has made me a more competitive candidate,” Pinzone noted. “My French instructor, Madame Noëlle Rouxel-Cubberly, is one of the most fantastic French professors ever. It was she who introduced the program to my class…She is a loving, caring, and extraordinarily intelligent woman and she has been a great mentor in French.”

For her part, Meiners said, “I honestly feel that I would not be in the position I am today if it were not for CSI and the support of my French professors: Professor [Kathryn] Talarico and Professor Rouxel-Cubberly. I struggled with French in high school and became determined to excel in the language when I began college, and meeting these two professors made that a possibility. Professor Talarico sparked my interest and provided a subtantial foundation in the language for me to build off of. Then, I studied three semesters of French with Professor Rouxel-Cubberly and did not come across a more encouraging, devoted, and patient professor in my four years at the college. These professors possess characteristics that make them the epitome of an educator, and have guided me toward my eventual selection to the program.”