Eastlake senior Jacquie Burkhardt wins Outstanding Senior in French Award
June 19, 2013
By Neil Pierson
In the Lake Washington School District, foreign language wasn’t a graduation requirement until this year’s group of ninth-graders arrived, which makes Jacquie Burkhardt’s accomplishments even more remarkable.
Burkhardt, who graduated from Eastlake High School this week, immersed herself in the French language since the eighth grade, and her dedication paid off recently with an Outstanding Senior in French Award from the American Association of Teachers of French.
“I’ve worked really hard in French,” Burkhardt said, “but I never expected to win it.”
The honor didn’t come easily. Burkhardt is one of two Washington students to earn it in 2013, and she has poured a lot of energy into her craft, said Karen Williams, her French teacher at Eastlake.
“She’s always looking for opportunities to experience French culture and language,” Williams said. “When she started … it was totally an elective, and anything beyond the second year, from a college admissions standpoint, is a choice that students make, and she’s had five years.”
Earning good grades is a requirement for the AATF award, but students have to go beyond that. Burkhardt’s passion for the French culture pushed her into Société Honoraire de Français, a national French honors society, and she became president of Eastlake’s French club.
During her sophomore and senior years, she attended a 36-hour immersion camp where students spoke nothing but French.
She’s been highly involved with Alliance Français de Seattle – the local chapter of a worldwide organization promoting French language and culture – and completed her senior project there by working in a library and teaching younger children.
If that weren’t enough, she also took the initiative to find a study-abroad program as a sophomore, and spent three weeks during the summer of 2011 with a host family north of Paris.
“It’s very unusual for students to do that at any age,” Williams said. “It’s extraordinary when you’re at the end of your sophomore year and you go off for three weeks to a foreign country.”
Burkhardt experienced a bit of a cultural shock at first.
“I was a bit jet-lagged on my first day and I was freaking out because I couldn’t understand anything anyone was saying,” she said. “Then, a little bit later, I found out they were speaking Portuguese because the grandma could only speak Portuguese and not French.”
The host family helped translate words and phrases, and Burkhardt quickly caught on. She saw many of the typical tourist sites, including the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and Versailles, but she also saw her hosts’ favorite parts of Paris, which was a more personal glimpse into the life of a French citizen.
When she returned home, the benefit became obvious.
“Fourth-year French was so much easier than third year just because I’d had that experience of constantly speaking it and being involved in it,” Burkhardt said.
Burkhardt isn’t planning to lose her proficiency anytime soon. She’s headed to the University of Texas, where she wants to major in international business and French.
She might work for a technology company or marketing firm one day, and she definitely wants to travel.
“I want to combine my language with business,” she said. “I’d really like, after college, to be stationed overseas for a little while.”
Burkhardt credits Williams for providing many alternative learning opportunities, including her stint with Alliance Français de Seattle. Williams also spoke to Burkhardt’s parents about the validity of a travel-abroad program.
“She kind of eased my parents’ minds – ‘It’s a good program, it’s safe, they’re not going to kidnap your child,’” Burkhardt said, laughing.