Spotlight: Madame Derby

Edie Patterson

“Since I was very young, I have been fascinated by other cultures and places,” Madame Derby says, describing her initial fascination with French on childhood trips to Quebec. “I am as excited about learning French and everything about francophone cultures today as I was as a student.” Madame Derby has been teaching French at Seabury since 2011 after moving here from Columbus, Ohio, where she taught at a large school with lots of fights and plenty of interesting stories to tell her French classes today, including one where students claim she jumped over tables in the cafeteria to break up a fight when the cop stationed there didn’t show up. “After a really rough four years in Ohio, I was so happy to teach at Seabury. I’ve learned a lot about teaching, myself, and kids through these diverse experiences. Plus, I have some really good stories!”

Building on her interest in French and high school education in the language, Madame Derby started teaching in Dayton, Ohio, 22 years ago. She moved to Park City, Utah, and taught there, where they had an exchange with their sister city, Courchevel, France. After that, she moved to a larger school in Columbus, Ohio, before coming to Seabury. “I’ve been here for the addition of the 6th grade, the expansion of the commons, the building of the FEMA shelter/locker rooms, and now the new addition,” Madame Derby says of her nine years working here, showing just how dramatically the school has grown. Initially, she only taught two classes, but after readjustments and growth, she teaches four levels of standard French, an honors French section and 7th grade Latin, which she shares with Senor Rowe. “So many teachers, staff and students have come and gone. They’ve all contributed to making this such a dynamic environment.” After nine years of teaching at Seabury, Madame Derby has seen various improvements and renovations, and become a part of this uniquely tight-knit community.

“My favorite part of being a French teacher is showing young people that there’s a whole world out there that you can discover more fully if you are knowledgeable of other languages and cultures,” Madame Derby says. Although the language is usually associated with just Paris and France, it is actually either an official or heritage language in countries on six continents. “Learning another language is also about learning history, geography, literature, art, food etc. It can really open up the world for people and expand their horizons. I like to think that I’m helping to encourage people to be thoughtful about other cultures and enthusiastic about diversity,” she says. According to Madame Derby, French studies have been the most influential part of her life, and she loves French’s “satisfyingly rule-based” grammar. “It’s so fun and rewarding to have a job where you explain your passion to others and try to convince them to be passionate about it too.” Over her years at Seabury, Madame Derby has certainly impacted students’ lives and passed on her love of French.


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  • Mr. Neuteboom

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Of course I wear dresses on cruise ships — what else would I wear to captain’s dinner?

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