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Godwin alum travels abroad to teach

Many students dream to travel or even live abroad throughout their life. For Gigi Justis, a Godwin alum, that dream has become a reality. 

Justis, a recent graduate of the University of Virginia, studied biology and French in college. 

“I graduated Godwin in June of 2016 and then I went on to study French and Biology at UVA where I graduated in May of 2020,” said Justis. 

After graduating, she decided to pack her bags and travel to France to work as an English Language assistant.

“I’m here in Le Mans, France working as an English Language Assistant through a program called Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF); I am not technically a teacher, but I do have my own classes. I teach English in two French collèges,” said Justis.

A collége is the French equivalent of middle school, except it includes ninth grade. The students are typically aged 11 through 15 years old.

Justis was inspired to go to France after college to live out a childhood dream.

“I love France, it has been my dream to live here since I was about 13 years old,” said Justis. 

Even though Justis does not plan to make teaching her life career, she wanted to see what the world had to offer her before settling down to one occupation.

“I think it is really important to try new things before settling down, it helps bring clarity to what [I] want to do with [my] life,” said Justis.

Justis teaches her students about American culture and the English language.

“Part of my job is to share American culture with the students, and I really like having in class debates on the differences between French and American culture – it is always fun to teach the students about different holidays we celebrate in the US, but not in France,” said Justis. 

For Justis, teaching has been very rewarding for her because she can see the improvement in her students.

“The most rewarding aspect of teaching is seeing improvement in students. When I started in November, many of my students were too shy to speak in English and I had to spend a lot of time teaching in French, but now I spend most of the class speaking English and my students can understand and respond in English, and that’s pretty cool,” said Justis.

While her teaching experience has been rewarding, it hasn’t always been easy because of the global pandemic.

“I spent most of my time teaching in-person, but the Covid restrictions made it so that the students stay in one room all day and the teachers switch classrooms each hour, which is frustrating [because it limits instruction time],” said Justis. 

According to Justis, another difficult part about teaching is having to teach subjects she is not interested in. 

“For me, the most difficult part of being a teacher has been integrating boring topics (like grammar) into a lesson in a way that makes students excited to learn,” said Justis.

Her students, like almost all other students in the world, face the difficulties of learning during the pandemic. 

“This year in particular, it’s been difficult dealing with Covid restrictions and keeping the students motivated when they feel burnt out from everything going on around them,” said Justis. 

Outside of the classroom, Justis spends her time exploring France with some of her friends.

“I am really lucky to have a good group of friends here,” said Justis. “Most of them are doing the same program as I am as language assistants in schools, but they come from all over the world.”

“I live with two other girls who are working as language assistants – Ruth, who is Austrian, and Abigail, who is Scottish. We spend our time watching movies, cooking, and exploring Le Mans when the weather is nice,” said Justis. 

For anyone who wants to explore teaching as a possible career, Justis offers advice.

“If you’re passionate about teaching, follow that passion. Students respond much better to teachers who love their jobs. I love what I do here and teaching is much easier when you make it fun and when you enjoy it, too,” said Justis.

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