For the Love of Teaching

Submitted by Teri Gaines on

When Chris Tutolo moved to Seattle, Washington to attend the University of Washington, he had one goal in mind—to join a graduate program that would allow him ample opportunities to teach French. While enrolled in the Master of Arts program in French Studies, Chris taught French classes to undergraduates each quarter, giving him the experience in the classroom that he was looking for. “I considered the MA in French Studies a two-year investment of time that would prepare me for teaching at the K-12 level. Against competitive graduate school options, the UW won out precisely because its French Studies program lays a heavy focus on teaching French while obtaining your degree.” Chris graduated from Penn State University with a bachelor of arts in French & Francophone Studies and International Relations where he developed his passion for cultural and linguistic exchange.

Chris graduated with a Master of Arts and Teaching Certificate in Second and Foreign Language from UW in 2021. He went on to become a French teacher at the prestigious Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn, New York. As a teacher, Chris finds himself regularly referencing notes from his Global French Cinema class taught by his mentor at UW, Professor Richard Watts, as well as the sample lesson plans developed by UW French faculty members, Teaching Professor Hedwige Meyer. While challenging at times, Chris is grateful for the opportunity to have pursued a Graduate Certificate in Second and Foreign Language Teaching while maintaining his graduate coursework. “Committing to this path helped me to hone in on what I really wanted to do following my studies, which is something that, as a lifelong liberal arts student, I have often struggled to figure out. Getting into the routine of lesson prep, teaching, and grading all while taking classes of my own definitely prepared me in the best way to take on the supercharged Middle School teacher's schedule I have now” he says.

For his MA Final Project, Chris focused his research on the Levant region, successfully bridging his passions for both French and Arabic. He chose to translate a vintage travel guide to Lebanon, which was originally written in French by renowned Libano-Franco-Egyptian author, Andrée Chedid. “I am so glad that I was able to enroll in Arabic-language classes while pursuing my MA in French Studies. From the start, the Department of French & Italian Studies was very good about recognizing the inseparability of Arabic and French as it pertains to the Levant.”

In his current role as a Middle School French Teacher at Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn, NY, Chris is able to do what he is most passionate about in a language that he loves. “It has seriously been so much fun. I can't quite convey how nice it feels, after having invested the past two years at the UW believing that K-12 education was what I wanted to do afterward, to begin working as a K-12 French teacher and think, ‘This is it. This is where I want to be.’" Due to his Arabic studies at the UW, Chris will now be teaching beginning Arabic at the high school level during the 2022-2023 school year.

As a life-long learner, Chris values the experience of learning alongside his students. He encourages those who are interested in studying languages to travel to a place where the language is spoken natively and spend as much time as you can there. For those who are interested in teaching language to remember what they loved about the language as a student. “Bottom line: if you're not having fun teaching the language, you better believe your students aren't having fun learning it.”