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Ellingson bids RHS adieu after 36 years

Rosemount High French teacher LaRae Ellingson retires after a rewarding 36-year teaching career in one building. “I just feel real lucky to have been here that amount of time. I have been happily employed because students have been so bright and creative, interested and interesting,” Ellingson said. Kara Hildreth / contributor

LaRae Ellingson will bid a French farewell when she says "au revoir" to her French students.

Ellingson is retiring after 36 years of teaching at Rosemount High School. Becoming somewhat nostalgic and sentimental, she feels fortunate she could build relationships with students, parents and staff. Those relationships have motivated her to keep teaching French to new and returning students each school year in Rosemount.

"I just feel real lucky to have been here that amount of time, and I have been happily employed because the students have been so bright and creative, interested and interesting," Ellingson said.

Ellingson, 63, teaches French and serves as chair of the foreign language department.

Besides missing her students and teaching, Ellingson will miss her fellow teaching colleagues and building staff and administration, .

"This is a good, healthy place to be," she said.

She teaches five levels of French and the fourth and fifth years are considered CIS or College in the Schools courses. High school students can earn up to 10 semester credits from the University of Minnesota.

Minnesota state schools require two years of a world foreign language. She likes to see when students enjoy the language and want to pursue more years of learning to speak and communicate in a second language that no longer is foreign.

Ellingson traveled with her students to France many times throughout her career.

"I feel like the kids who choose French are really special kids," she said. "They often say Spanish is easier but I think that is because there are more rules first with the words in Spanish being masculine or feminine."

She added: "I think in the end, those languages are equally difficult and students should choose the language in their hearts or the language they feel they have a connection to. Many times students chose a language from family heritage or they have interests in.

Some rewarding parts of her career have been to watch students flourish with the French language and culture and when they travel to France for three weeks. Students usually spend a week in Paris, a week living with a French family and another week traveling to another area of France.

"It is really a great program when they can learn what life is like by living with family, and many go back to visit and we also have some program where French students stay with them in the summer," Ellingson said.

Seeing the Eiffel Tower in Paris is important and memorable for students, although she said it may be more valuable for students to learn about the French culture by living a family in their homes.

When she was a high school French student herself, she chose to become a college English major with a minor in French. When she returned to graduate school, she took master classes in reading, literature and language, all taught in French.

As a native Norwegian, she feels a connection to her ancestry. "But I feel a real connection to French art and lifestyle and design," Ellingson said.

Over her years in teaching, she admits it is rewarding and fulfilling to see returning former students come to visit or invite her to weddings and shower celebrations because she likes to stay connected to students' lives.

"When they come back, it is very interesting to see what happens to them because they all have so much promise and all are capable and do," she said.

Knighted for work

Back in 2005, Ellingson was surprised, honored and delighted to be knighted by the French government because of her work and teaching to promote French culture and her students helped her celebrate in a special ceremony.

Throughout her long career, she also earned awards from the Council of Teaching and Language and Culture that she is proud of as a testament to her passion for teaching the French language and culture. She serves as treasurer for the Association for French Teachers for Minnesota and has served as chair to help select the French Teacher of the Year in the state.

In her retirement, she will return to France and will travel to Tahiti, a French Island.

"We are thinking of a trip to Bordeaux in 2018 to the wine country, Bordeaux is the place where the Parisiens go to get away," Ellingson said.

Except for a year living in France, Ellingson has spent most of her life living with an academic calendar. She desires to see what life will look like without the fall to summer schedule.

Since she has commuted from Edina for nearly four decades, she knew she could have taken a teaching job closer to home. But she preferred to stay teaching at Rosemount High even after the district built new buildings over the years because of the close-knit feel of the building and with students and families.

"I have been lucky to have great kids, great families and a great community."