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A teacher who skips to work

Julie Ann Lafleur has taught various grades in 20 years.  But she’s been teaching grade one for 10 years at Lower Canada College in Montréal, and it’s her favourite.

“There’s a ‘l’éveil’, the great awakening. The kids become literate right before your eyes. That’s where my heart is.”

Lafleur says she always wanted to be a teacher. She pursued her dream working as a camp counsellor and at a daycare while studying at McGill.

“I skip to work,” says Lafleur. “You have to love what you are doing, and I think the kids know it.”

They do. “It was the game-changer,” says Brigitte Roy’s now 17-year-old son, Zachary. Roy’s grade 10 daughter, Abbey, is still involved with Mme Lafleur, helping her with a book club the teacher founded. Roy’s youngest child, Gabrielle, graduated from Lafleur’s class just last year.

“I’ve known her a pretty long time,” says Roy. “Her techniques, her curriculum have changed, but her style has not.”

“She’s full of life. She has that way of giving them that work ethic. She fi nds their confidence and makes it come out.”

Lafleur talks about “an absolute miracle” student from India. “She spoke Hindi and limited English. She called me ‘Mrs. La-ha’ – she couldn’t say ‘Lafleur’. I watched her brain grow. She ended the year as one of the top students in grade one. In French!”

Roy says she got a call from Lafleur when her son was in her class. “She said ‘okay, it’s been six weeks. He hasn’t said a word’.”

“We thought this kid was never going to utter a word of French. They went to have snack together. She said ‘this is it, buddy, you’re going to talk to me.’ ” Roy says her son was fluently bilingual by the end of the year. “I couldn’t believe it,” she says. “She’s got that magic touch.”

“Julie Ann is a hugely competent teacher,” says LCC headmaster Chris Shannon. “Once parents get to know her, they can’t believe her dedication.”

Lafleur says the only part she hates about her job is the month of June. “These children have become a part of your life, and you are part of theirs. And then you say goodbye.”

Come September, though, Lafleur is ready to start all over. “She’s there two weeks before, cleaning her classroom, sharpening the pencils,” says Roy. “You can see how giddy she is.”

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