Our Laguna: Honoring a teacher the French way

September 23, 2010|By Barbara Diamond
  • Odille Dewer, center, in white jacket, surrounded by supporters at the Beverly Hills home of French Consulate General.
Odille Dewer, center, in white jacket, surrounded by… (Coastline Pilot )

Neither the stars above the French Consul General's home in Beverly Hills on Sept. 14 nor the candles that lighted the way to the patio shone more brightly than Odile Dewar's smile.

Dewar, who teaches French at Laguna Beach High School, was honored by Consul General David Martinon with the Insignia of the Palmes Academiques for her contributions to education.

She beamed the whole night long.

Most of the presentation was conducted in French, with asides in English for the benefit of Dewar's non-French-speaking friends who attended the ceremony.

"Odile has been at the residence before to observe the decorations of others, but today it is her turn and she really deserves it," Martinon said.

After pinning the insignia on Dewar's lapel, Martinon saluted her in the traditional manner, an air kiss on either side of her face.


"I am very lucky to be here tonight," said Dewar. "This is a symbol of people working for humanity through language."

She thanked Laguna Beach for adopting the French culture with typical American gusto.

School board member Betsy Jenkins, who could not attend the ceremony, wrote a glowing tribute to Dewar's contributions to the education of Laguna's students. Laguna Beach Visitors Bureau President and President of the Laguna Beach Sister Cities Assn. Karyn Philippsen read the tribute.

"To walk into Odile's classroom is to walk into a moving kaleidoscope of color, action and sound," Jenkins wrote. "The walls are decorated with French posters, flags and brightly colored photographs, as well as beautiful examples of her students' talented work.

"Odile seems to be everywhere at once — coaching the kids in pronunciation, teaching grammar, polishing their written work. Her classroom is much like she is — alive, vibrant and charming."

Jenkins described Dewar as a visionary who brings a multicultural and international experience to her students, importing speakers from diverse cultures and showcasing their arts.

"Odile not only teaches the French language, but also its culture, cuisine and viewpoints," Jenkins continued.

"Nowhere has this immersion into the French language and culture been more apparent than in Odile's partnership with the Laguna Beach sister city of Menton, France. Using cutting edge technology, Odile has pioneered the use of SKYPE to connect her LBHS classroom with the classroom of Mme. Florence LaGache in Menton.

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