Staff Spotlight: Anne-Sophie Devouassoux
Pre-K Head Teacher Anne-Sophie Devouassoux began teaching in ISB’s Preschool in 2014. She recently sat down with us to share her journey from her hometown in the French Alps to her adventures hiking in Nepal, biking through Italy, surfing in Ecuador, and finally teaching here in New York City, and how these experiences have shaped her as an educator.
What was it like growing up in your hometown of Chamonix, France?
Chamonix is a mountain town in the Alps, right near Italy and Switzerland. I grew up very outdoorsy; I was always skiing, snowboarding, and hiking. I also played guitar, and I loved to dance. I come from a family of educators: my grandmother, my mother, and my aunt were all teachers.
What are some of your early memories of education?
I went to a tiny preschool in a village, and I had the same teacher for years, whom I just adored and whom I continue to idolize today. I still have so many joyful memories from preschool, and that’s how I know that we have such an impact with our young students.
Do you think this influenced you to eventually become a preschool teacher yourself?
Having this great experience at preschool definitely had an influence on me as a teacher today, but I wouldn’t say I knew that I wanted to be a teacher early on. I think my love for education really comes from the many years I spent as a scout in France when I was younger. I feel like many of the the principles of the scout association in France are very similar to what we do here at ISB: scouts learn about compassion, and they learn to be open-minded and risk-takers. Each child is at the center of their own learning and discoveries, and they are taught to work together and to understand that everyone has an important role. I enjoyed my time so much as a scout that when I was older I wanted to give back, and so I became a scout leader. I would lead groups of kids on nature excursions and would help to organize big community events for the scouts.
What was next in your professional journey?
I went to college in Grenoble for a Masters degree in history and geography, and I began working in the field of urban planning. I was initially working for the Ministry of Tourism in Grenoble, and then when I moved back to Chamonix, I was working as a researcher, but I knew I wanted something different, so I decided to travel. I spent six months in India and then a month in Nepal, where I hiked to the base camp of Mt. Everest. After I returned from India, I realized that I had to find a way to combine traveling with work. I met an amazing woman who introduced me to an company called Backroads, which organizes active and cultural trips all over the world. I was hired to work as a trip leader and was in charge of bringing groups on various tours abroad, usually involving a lot of hiking and biking; I was based mostly in Italy. This was an amazing experience - I spent five years traveling around the world and met incredible people who I’m still friends with today. This is actually how I met my husband; he was a guest on a trip I led in Norway!
How did you then become a classroom teacher?
Nine years ago, I moved to New York, and this is when I decided I wanted to go into education. I had already been working as educator, both as a scouts leader and as a trip leader, and so it felt extremely natural and intuitive to replicate what I had been doing on these nature trips and cultural excursions for so many years in a classroom setting. I loved translating cultures, and I wanted to share my French culture, so I studied teaching French as a foreign language. I worked for a few years teaching French to preschool-aged students, as well as to teenagers, before joining ISB in 2014.
How did your experiences working abroad shape your educational philosophy?
While I was always a very good student growing up, my experiences traveling and working abroad showed me that there is so much more to education than just being in the classroom. And that’s exactly what I’m trying to replicate with my students: I want them to see that learning can happen all the time, and there are opportunities everywhere to learn, it doesn’t just stop when they leave school.
What languages do you speak?
In addition to French and English, I speak Italian and some Spanish. I spent a month in Ecuador and a month in Costa Rica taking Spanish classes and learning to surf. I believe that learning a language is all about emotional connections. If you love your teacher and your learning experiences, you’re going to love the material. I want all of my students to love learning languages!
How do you spend your time outside of the Pre-K classroom?
I like to spend time with my family. I have a daughter who just turned 15 months old. I love to cook for my friends, practice yoga, ride my bike, and write. I love to try new things; I always tend to say yes to new experiences. I’m also an avid reader, and I read two or three books a week. The best moment of the day for me is at the end of a night, when I can sit down with some chocolate, a cup of tea, and a good book. When I was younger, I’d spend the entire day reading. I especially love fiction and poetry. I try to read in English, French, and sometimes Italian.
What is one of your favorite parts of being an educator?
I love to laugh with my students. I think it’s really important. I like to learn and grow the same way they do. We always have these moments in class where a child says something amazing, or a child does something silly to make us all laugh. They are always trying to help each other, and it is just so inspiring.
Thank you to Anne-Sophie for sharing her story with us!