A teacher at heart

by Sr Christiane Marie Formant

I was always a teacher. Ever since I could read, I wanted to “do school” – starting with my dolls!

A case of atavism perhaps, in admiration of my grandfather, who was a teacher himself. It was certainly my first vocation.

With the war, when my father was taken prisoner and my sister’s health was poor, we found ourselves moved from the North to the mountains of Grenoble, where my mother and her Dominican brother (since then both named Righteous Among the Nations) saved about fifteen Jews, including a Belgian who was teaching us: “sécurité oblige…”

An education in openness

It was 1945 in Grenoble. I was to go into 6th grade, but in which school? Free education was an imperative. That was how, by chance, I arrived in Sion, where I still am! I did all my studies there, and then I started teaching. And in response to the Lord’s call, I could only enter Sion.

I was a teacher of literature – which opens up many possibilities – and religious education. First in the Saint-Omer Sion school, then in the Auvergne, in the Paris region. The important thing was to give an education in openness through secular teaching. There were school trips to art galleries related to the programme, after which each pupil created an art notebook – and the surprise upon returning to school: “I visited such and such a museum to see for myself!”

I tried to help them to gain confidence in their own ability

I tried to help them to gain confidence in their own ability (drama activities helped some pupils a lot), to show respect for others (my pupils changed desk-mate every month), to develop a sense of responsibility and sharing, and to gain a some knowledge of the Bible with small groups for personal reflection.

My love for Israel led me to consider it necessary to help my students in high school discover this people, its book and its country, in ways other than through the written word. And this is why I organised, at length, trips to Israel with young people and adults such as parents, teachers and friends. These trips were “made-to-measure”, to allow discovery of the country and encounters with various people.

“We never came back as we were when we left”: that’s what I was always told afterwards. It was a way of breaking down many prejudices, of making people want to return, to start studying the Bible and sometimes Hebrew.

We never came back as we were when we left

My teaching is not only academic. When I retired, I continued with the Bible and trips to Israel with the ITA (Institut théologique d’Auvergne), always from the same perspective and with the same results.

“Through the different forms of education, we endeavour to transmit the biblical perspective of human life which we ourselves are continually trying to appropriate: namely, the dignity of the human person, the love that God has for each person in his/her uniqueness and for each people in its distinctiveness” (NDS Constitution no. 15.4).