A French connection

"Vive la France!": Sheila Piasecki proudly displays her IWLA Educator of the Year award. As a student teacher, Piasecki's cooperating teacher won the same award. Now, Piasecki stands in her mentor's shoes.

By Chaz Nomura

In 2008, Sheila Piasecki (then Sheila Conrad) sat in the back of Elizabeth Zwanziger's French III taking copious notes, impressed with her mentor’s ability to communicate and connect with her students.

“She was very close with her students and took time to get to know them and their unique personalities,” said Piasecki. “She was just an excellent role model for me to learn from.”

Only a few years later, Zwanziger won the Iowa World Language Association (IWLA) Educator of the Year.

Now, Piasecki finds herself standing in the shoes of her mentor, connecting and communicating with her students, and just like her mentor, the IWLA gave Piasecki the same award.

The student has now become the teacher.

The IWLA Teacher of the Year Award is an award where world language teachers nominate their peers for their accomplishments in the classroom. World language teacher Cristiana Zimmerman selected Piasecki, her friend and colleague, to be given this prestigious award. She believes that Piasecki is not one to boast but deserves to be recognized for her tireless work ethic.

“I would like to give her some recognition for the work that she does,” said Zimmerman. “She is not one that is going to publicize the good things she is doing in class.”

For 13 years of Piasecki’s life, teaching French has affected the way she works with students. For her, teaching her students allows her to rediscover her love for the language on a daily basis. Piasecki understands that communication and connecting with others is very important for the way she teaches.

“I value connections and communications, and teaching world language focuses on those two things,” said Piasecki.

Piasecki perseveres to answer all questions and give each student the individual attention they need. President of the French club, Sam Barnes, is impressed with Piasecki’s determination and excellence as a teacher.

“She is a spectacular teacher and I have never ever had a day where I don’t think Madame Piasecki has given less than a 100 percent effort,” said Barnes.

Piasecki remains an integral part of the high school’s world language department, going out of her way to make sure students are successful at all times. Piasecki keeps her department working hard and focused on making sure students are successful and prepared. World language teacher Bartley Meinke recognizes that Piasecki focuses solely on the success of the student and what it takes to get them to speak aloud their questions and concerns.

“She always makes it about students and student success,” said Meinke. “She follows closely to the goals that we have to get students to communicate in the target language.”

Furthermore, Meinke understands that teachers should care about the emotional and mental health of students. Meinke is impressed that Piasecki ensures that her classroom is a place where students feel they belong.

“She always focuses on making her classroom a place where students feel safe and welcome,” said Meinke.

In recent years, Piasecki has stepped down as President of the Iowa Association of French language teachers. Just last November, Piasecki got married and has shifted her attention to balancing her professional and family life, as she and her husband are expecting their first child. Barnes believes that Piasecki has done so much for the world language department that becoming a mother will only enhance Piasecki’s teaching.

“I believe that she sees this as a nice transition, from those central leadership positions at a state level to filling in more of a family role,” said Barnes.

Piasecki respects her students and has always presented herself as a motherly figure to those she teaches. Junior Kendhal Springfield, French club member, recognizes the passion she has as a teacher and is optimistic about Piasecki’s future.

“She’s got a whole life ahead of her,” said Springfield. “I think it’s really important that people recognize that.”


Chaz Nomura is student journalist enrolled in newspaper writing.

This is his first article for The Growl.


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