Curriculum Area Supervisory and Language Teacher Ann Sorrell will retire at the end of this school year after forty years of teaching in South Burlington. Sorrell, a Quebec native, began teaching in 1971 and has taught French, as well as serving as a curriculum area supervisor.
Notable to many South Burlington students, past and present, is the work Sorrell has done to provide meaningful cultural experiences for her students. She has coordinated trips abroad since 1972 when she took her first class trip to Colon, France. In fact, Pat Phillips, the current Assistant Principal, was one of the first to go, Sorrell said.
Over the years this exchange program grew, as Sorrell created a relationship with a high school in Perigeux, France. This rural regional school has a feel closer to SBHS, Sorrell explained. “From there, we just developed our own program, allowing students to grow linguistically and open their eyes to what’s available to them.”
The program did expand significantly under Sorrell’s guidance, and now includes exchanges to France, Germany, Spain, and Japan. SB Students spend three weeks in their host country, living with a family and experiencing native culture. Students in France and Spain also speak the language as part of the exchange, however experiences in Japan and Germany are open to the student body as a whole.
“I love my classes, but the exchanges are enriching,” Sorrell told The Other Paper in a recent interview. “Getting them to see other cultures, and be sensitized: this occurs when the exchanges are happening.”
Sorrell says that not only do students benefit from a cultural and linguistic awareness, but that close relationships are formed through these experiences. “People are in tears when they leave.” Sorrell said. “They form very close relationships; they’ve affected one another.”
Students also benefit from new relationships within the school community. “American students form friendships with people they may not have known before,” Sorrel said.
Language learning and cultural exchanges are important to Sorrell, but she says her ultimate purpose has been “to help students to realize how important it is to think about things. They really need to look at all sides of questions. There may be more than one way of looking at things.” She pointed to language as a good way to hone these skills, as “in learning a language you clarify your own thoughts. You have to clarify your own thoughts in order to communicate them.”
Though Sorrell had difficulty making the decision to leave her position, she says she feels now it was the best one. She is moving across country to spend time with her husband and children, and hopes to possibly lead cultural classes and excursions for adults.
In reflecting on her long meaningful career, Sorrell said “I could not have done it without my family,” she said. “We all grew together,” she laughs recounting many a time when up to eight people were staying in her home as part of an exchange.
She also points to a supportive administration as key to the success of the exchange program.
Theresa Mazza-Anthony, who currently teaches at the middle school, will fill Sorrell’s position on the fall. “She is totally convinced of the importance of exchanges,” Sorrell said.
SOURCE: Annalisa Parent, Correspondent