Asari leaves classroom to take Trois-Pistoles helm

Paul Mayne//Western News

Kathy Asari has taken the helm as Director of Western’s French Immersion School at Trois-Pistoles, the country’s oldest French-immersion program founded in 1932.

While Kathy Asari may be leaving the formal classroom setting, she knows her love of teaching will never fade.

“I will miss being in the classroom, but this is role still involves a lot of teaching – you’re just doing it differently,” said Asari, who recently stepped into the role of Director of Western’s French Immersion School at Trois-Pistoles. She has taught at the school for the last few years and is ready for the new challenge in leading the country’s oldest French-immersion program, founded in 1932.

“I’m hoping that makes it a little easier,” she laughed. “It’s an idea that’s been tossing around in my head for the last couple years. I’m interested in teaching and teaching development. So, while I won’t be doing teaching, I will have a hand in a lot of teaching-related things, such as setting up training and facilitating for our instructors. When you are training, there are a lot of teaching elements that come into that.”

Offered through Western Continuing Studies, the French-immersion school is located in small town of Trois-Pistoles, Quebec, approximately 230 km from Quebec City on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River. The community of just under 3,500 is “the ideal location” to integrate students into a French-speaking community, where students are placed with a Quebecois family for the entire session, offering a first-hand experience of local culture and the French language.

Asari, who is replacing outgoing director André Beaudin, said having worked at Trois-Pistoles for a number of years, she has gotten to know the community and feels it gives her “an insider’s view” as to what’s happening in the area. This, she said, can help when it comes to what sort of new programs the school may want to develop.

While she wouldn’t give any hints as to new programming ideas – “no secrets yet” – Asari said there are opportunities to open programming to new clientele, including younger people, or at different times of the year outside its usual spring/summer schedule.

Along with already offering programs for students, teens, adults and families, the school’s new programs have extended beyond the walls of Trois-Pistoles to include classes in Rimouski, Quebec, as well as a three-month ‘city and country’ program run through a partnership with the University of Quebec in Montreal.

Asari gets surprised every time she talks to people about the school – there’s always someone who knows someone who’s been there. That success is due in large part, she says, to the families of Trois-Pistoles who housed the students throughout the year. Their continued participation is something Asari said is paramount to the school’s continued achievements.

“The relationship with the families is so valuable. Some families have been hosts for decades; we’re talking three generations,” Asari said. “We need to make sure this partnership remains as solid as it is. I’m hoping to return 40-50 years from now and see people are still engaged with our programs.”

In the meantime, Asari said the excitement of her new role is outweighing any nerves.

“I’m walking into a great team,” she said. “It helps me knowing I can pick up and talk to someone about an idea. Believe me, I’m having the time of my life.”