Students of Lycée Nicolas Appert High School in Nantes, France, pictured here, visit Northern Adirondack Central School each year to experience the region and learn about the culture here. Similarly NAC students have the opportunity to visit their "sister" school in Nantes.
ELLENBURG DEPOT — French teacher Joseph Marcil has successfully bridged the 3,635 mile gap between students of Northern Adirondack Central School and those attending a sister or “twinned” school in Nantes, France.
The Lycée Nicolas Appert High School in Nantes, France, has been sending students to visit the NAC school for the past two years for two week visits.
After the second visit, Marcil said the Nicholas Appert school went through the process of making NAC their official sister school. Becoming a sister school is considered a great honor in France.
During their stay, visiting students come to NAC and follow their host student’s regular class schedule for a day and have a chance to visit various educational location in the North Country. They visit places like Fort Ticonderoga, the Lake Placid Olympic Sports Arena, the Shelburne History Museum and the Ben and Jerry’s Factory.
In April, 18 NAC students, faculty and parents will be able to visit their sister school and the students they have hosted.
“Our goal here is to create something, not just a memory but a truely worthwhile experience for the students here and in France,” Marcil said.
The exchange program started three years ago after Marcil read an advertisement in a national teaching magazine about language teachers starting a pen pal service. The program later escalated from students pen paling and “intense Facebooking” to students taking the nearly 4,000 mile journey to Nantes.
NAC Principal Michael Loughman said the work Marcil has done has been an amazing experience for both the students and the surrounding community.
“(Through this program) he’s brought a world of culture to the area that these kids might have never seen,” Loughman said.
Marcil said the students coming from Nantes have a similar economic background as NAC students. The reason he and the faculty in Nantes are committed to the partnership program is to bring opportunities to students they may never have again and to give students the ability to experience a culture different than their own.
“It takes complete cooperation from teachers in both schools,” Marcil said. “We do this without pay, just because we know the value of this program and promote it as a strong educational opportunity.”
Marcil started teaching at NAC 25 years ago, when the school only had two french teachers. Since then, Marcil said the language department has grown to include two spanish teachers and the addition of the sister school in France.
Fellow faculty member Brian Tsingnal said Marcil is a dedicated teacher who has contributed a great deal to the community through his hard work.
“We are very lucky to have him, he’s really doing great things with the program,” Tsingnal said.
The student trip is partially funded by fundraising efforts by students and corporate sponsorship from area businesses such as Stewarts, and Price Chopper. But funding is primarily covered through out of pocket expenses. Marcil said without the help of the community, the program could not have been as successful.
“We are a teeny tiny school district but when it comes to this program we have a huge amount of family, school, and community support that reaches out to help,” Marcil said.