Agnès Albérola retires after 40 years of teaching

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Contributed by Agnès Albérola

French teacher and World Languages Curriculum Coordinator Agnès Albérola, is retiring after working at BHS for 18 years. She plans to spend her time exploring her creative side, traveling, learning Japanese, and visiting her parents in France.

Her students know her as the teacher with the magical door. Her colleagues’ children know her as the lady who gives them rides around the school in a red wagon. Everyone has a sentimental story to share about her, and she will surely be missed.

After 40 years of teaching, French teacher and World Languages Curriculum Coordinator Agnès Albérola is retiring. With her newfound free time, Albérola plans on traveling and doing art workshops in Japan as well as spending more time with her aging parents in France.

Albérola started teaching when she was 18 after finishing school of education in France early. She taught in France for seven years before coming to the U.S. to teach in Milton, Mass. and start the town’s French immersion program. Albérola stayed in Milton for 15 years before beginning her job at the high school, where she has taught for the past 18 years.

For Albérola, getting young people excited about learning inspired her to become a teacher. She said it’s particularly fulfilling when students demonstrate their understanding of concepts.

“With students I will miss every year just seeing the spark in someone’s eyes when something really gets their attention or they understand something that they didn’t before,” Albérola said.

Despite being an educator, she has found teaching to be a two-way street.

“I’ve learned that there is something interesting in everybody, you just have to be open to find it. And then when you spend the time, people give you something back in exchange,” Albérola said.

Naomi Mirny ‘20, had Albérola as her AP French teacher, and noted that Albérola always brought joy into the classroom with personal anecdotes, humor, and the “magical door.”

“She had the idea of a magical door, where you walk into the classroom and you speak French. If you speak English you get sent outside to walk back into the classroom,” Mirny said. “She has a really lively and bright personality, so I think people will miss that.”

Albérola’s secretary, Fauzia Mazhar, said on top of Albérola’s consistent punctuality and reliability, she’s also very considerate of others.

“If anybody walks in, she never says no to them. She has open doors, she always listens to them and she takes her time and never rushes them out,” Mazhar said. “Whenever I have any problems or have concerns she always will come and give me time.”

Chinese teacher Lihua Shorter mentioned that even though Albérola is her superior, she feels more like a friend.

“When she comes into the classroom, we don’t feel like we have to put on a good show. We can just be ourselves, we can joke with her in the middle of the class,” Shorter said. “The fact that we are so at ease when she comes in just shows the trust we have in her. I think that’s really rare.”

For Shorter, a quote by Nelson Mandela sums up who Albérola is, as it reflects Albérola’s belief that taking the effort to understand other people’s culture goes a long way.

“She talked about the value of world language teachers and she heard this saying : ‘If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart,’” Shorter said. “I think it amplifies who she is and why she thinks the work we do is so important.”

French teacher Andrew Kimball said the world language department feels more like a family than a workplace.

“We know each other’s children, and it’s like a large extended family of aunts, uncles and nephews––that would make Agnès the matriarch. She’s the one who really unites us all,” Kimball said.

Shorter agreed that Albérola has been a guiding force in helping the teachers to flourish not only as a department, but also as individuals.

“She has such a big heart, she leads by example, and she allows us to be the best we can be. It sounds really corny, that’s what we say to the kids, but as grown ups, especially in the workplace, you can’t always be the best you want to be because of all the restrictions,” Shorter said. “She allows us to grow as professionals, and I think in the end we are the best because of that leadership style.”

Kimball credits Albérola in helping him become the teacher he is today.

“I will always cherish the memory of being in my first few years and knowing so little about teaching, but the guidance, support, patience and positive reinforcement that she gave was so valuable in my career and in developing as a teacher,” Kimball said. “I’ll always have her to thank for that.”

Albérola expressed appreciation for the profession she chose and the purpose she found in it.

“I picked a career where I always had a sense of purpose, and I felt like I could contribute something to so many people,” Albérola said. “Not everyone has that chance in their life and when you find purpose, that’s the closest to finding a meaning in life, so I’m very grateful for all those who have given me a chance along the way.”

Albérola teaches for the first time at the age of 18. (Contributed by Agnès Albérola)