Teacher Spotlight: Ms. Piotrowski

Beloved French Teacher to Retire in January


Vera Targoff

Ms. Piotrowski has worked within the district since 1987.

Louisa Monahan, Contributing Writer

Register Forum: How long have you been at CRLS?

Ann Piotrowski: I started working here in 1987 as a per diem sub and was hired a few months later by the world language department head at the time, Walter J. Patacchiola, in the Cambridge middle schools. After about five years, I transferred to the high school.

RF: How long have you been a teacher?

AP: 30 years.

RF: When did you start to learn French?

AP: From a very early age, as my Polish parents were refugees in France after WWII. They then immigrated to the United States. I grew up with both languages, French and Polish, which gave me the opportunity to later learn additional languages from each language group: Romance and Slavic.

RF: Do you have a favorite or funny story about an experience you’ve had here?

AP: In the past I organized several exchanges in France with high schools in Paris (Lycée Fénelon), Paris suburbs (Bondy), Lyon, Amboise (Loire Valley), and trips to Normandy and Geneva, Switzerland.

On one of the exchanges, I had to stay in Paris an extra three days dealing with customs, luggage issues, airlines, and the American embassy in Paris. I had to sleep overnight in the basement of the airport, all because two students on the trip had forgotten their green cards and could not board the plane to re-enter the United States. The green cards were not checked on our way out of the U.S., so it hadn’t been an issue when we were traveling to France. …

The second memorable story is taking students from France to the World Trade Center in New York, months before the 9/11 event, and then after, feeling great sorrow and thinking about how precious life is. …

On a happier note, a third memorable story is receiving a gift from a parent of $1,000 to give anonymously to a student who couldn’t afford to go to France on one of our exchanges.

RF: What will you miss most about CRLS?

AP: I’ll miss the outstanding students and staff!

RF: Is there anything you won’t miss?

AP: I definitely won’t miss evaluation requirements, teachpoint and UBD’s, forever being in the process of writing letters of recommendation, correcting papers en masse on weekends, saying “put all phones and electronics away and shut in bags” ten times a day, and lastly, teaching a few non-motivated students who, every chance they get, disappear to go to the bathroom, lunch, or wander the hallways like boulevardiers [wanderers of Parisian boulevards].

RF: If you could describe your experience at CRLS in one word, what would it be?

AP: Unique, because of its diversity and great opportunities offered to students.

RF: Do you have any last advice for students or teachers?

AP: For students: Continue your studies of foreign languages—preferably more than one language. I recommend a high school exchange or junior year or semester abroad. Travel as much as possible to learn about other cultures, which will make you a better person and give you opportunities for various careers. …

For teachers: In the preamble to The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the author dedicates his book to his dear friend. He writes, “To the child whom this grown-up once was. All grown-ups were children first. (But few of them remember it.)” My advice is to enjoy and appreciate working with children, and don’t forget what it was like to be a kid. Have a sense of humor, and surround yourself with colleagues who also have one.

This piece also appears in our December print edition.