Nelly Ossia: Building Franco-English Bridges with an Iranian Twist


Sakib Asraf

Ms. Ossia learned French in school after having moved there from Iran.

Alexander Deng, Contributing Writer

Ms. Ossia is new to CRLS this year, teaching HN French 5 and AP French. She was born in Iran, grew up in France, and now lives in the United States.


RF: What factors influenced your decision to come to CRLS?

NO: I’ve always taken great interest in a school’s mission statement and was particularly intrigued to find out that Rindge’s motto, “Opportunity, Diversity, and Respect,” was developed by the students themselves. The first word, “opportunity,” was aligned with what I saw in this school: a strong commitment from various stakeholders—administration, teachers, parents, and students—to make sure that this opportunity of getting a well-rounded education is accessible to all. I have met with dedicated staff members and am eager to become part of this community.

RF: How does Cambridge compare to other environments in which you have taught?

NO: Cambridge is well-known for its two prestigious universities, and I have to admit that I am still mesmerized by the level of competition amongst schools to send their students to major Ivy League institutions.

RF: What was your path leading up to your current position at CRLS?

NO: I worked at the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, and received a scholarship from Rice University in Houston to attend graduate school. I received my Ph.D. in French and Francophone Studies and was appointed as an Instructional Assistant Professor of French studies at the University of Houston. I moved to the Greater Boston area about two years ago. I went back to [graduate] school to earn a MAT in Modern Language Education from BU. I did my student teaching at Lexington High School. I have basically been in a school setting all my life.  

RF: What were some of the changes you faced when moving from Houston to Cambridge?

NO: It was very difficult to get used to the cold weather and winters here. My kids had never seen snow before! Despite this, Cambridge is such a vibrant and bustling place. Being here reminds me of Paris. I just love walking in the city, something that Houston didn’t offer.

RF: You aren’t a native French speaker; when and where did you learn French, and how was that experience?

NO: I learned French at school. I was five years old when my parents left Iran and settled in Paris. I remember that I had a conflicted relationship with French. I had the impression that I was losing my identity while learning that language at school. The cultural shock was quite vivid.

RF: What is the most difficult concept for you to teach in a language?

NO: Suspending one’s judgement to appreciate the diversity of cultures and ways of being and living. The world does not revolve around Western cultures and beliefs, and it is essential to retain an open mind when we encounter different customs.

RF: What is the most attractive aspect of teaching for you?

NO: I just love interacting with students. I learn so much from them. Students are navigating through so many worlds, and I always feel grateful when I have the opportunity to get a glimpse of their various backgrounds and communities.

RF: What are the biggest differences between schools here and in France?

NO: The American school system is very different from the French system. What I really like here is the focus on building relationships between students and teachers. My colleagues back in France never had office hours, and my school did not have Community Meetings where students have the opportunity to enrich their bonds with their teachers. Another huge difference is all the standardized tests that students have to take in the U.S., which is very overwhelming.

RF: What are your impressions of CRLS, and what are some goals you hope to achieve here?

NO: This is week three for me at Rindge, so I am learning every day. I can always count on someone to cheer me up or give me precious advice! My goal is to build connections within the school’s community and beyond.

This piece also appears in our September 2018 print edition.