With a dozen different languages represented in her ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes, you would think Buford High School’s Lynda Fouquette would be a walking Rosetta Stone. Well, not quite.
“I’m not fluent in anything. I’m fluent in heart,” says the 2018-19 Buford City School System’s Teacher of the Year, who has made going out of her way for students and their parents her standard operating procedure for more than three decades. “It’s more about relationships.”
“When you have a newborn baby and they don’t have a language, you do everything you can to communicate with them. I show them pictures, I act it out, sometimes I might use Google Translator. I’m just very determined that if there’s something they don’t know, we’re going to figure this out.”
She makes sure that parents who might be overwhelmed at a school-wide parent night get special attention at an ESOL-only function where she’ll explain––through all means at her disposal––about the ins and outs of getting along in a new environment.
New environments are nothing new to Lynda, a proud “military brat,” who spent her youth all over the map. While visiting her parents in Germany after graduating from Troy State University, she landed a job there teaching special education in a Department of Defense school. Clearly, gravitating toward the scholastic underdog started early on and has never been far from Lynda’s radar.
“I look for kids that maybe other people aren’t paying attention to, even in the hallways. They’re sitting by themselves. I think every child should have a relationship with an adult they can depend on, that they can go to, knowing that person will be an advocate for them. I just want everybody to feel like they have somebody. Just let kids know you care about them.”
Certified in a number of disciplines from English to special ed, Lynda came upon ESOL when a need arose at Buford High School eight years ago. An immigration issue prompted several of the undocumented students to return from whence they came, leaving little need for the one ESOL teacher at Buford. The three students remaining were shuffled back into regular classes but were struggling. Lynda took on the challenge.
“They spoke nothing. They couldn’t go to the bathroom, they couldn’t go to the nurse, they couldn’t open their lockers cause they don’t have locks like that. So I just took those three kids, and we sat in a semi-circle, and did everything and anything we could for them to learn English.”
That program has since grown to 65 and Lynda describes the move as “the best thing that ever happened to me in my life.” And she has maintained relationships with those kids and more well past their days at school.
“I go to quinceañeras, I go to weddings, I’ve been to a Romanian wedding, I’ve been to a Congolese graduation, and I’m looking forward to my first Arabic graduation party.”
Lynda Fouquette has been honored just about every way a teacher can be and has earned the respect of colleagues and students every step of the way. But for all her recognition and accolades, for the remarkable achievement of having twelve of her ESOL students who came here as teenagers graduate from her program, she is quick to share the credit.
“The reason they were successful is not just because of me but because of their hard work, and also because of the teachers I work with. I have teachers who will do anything and everything for those kids.”
Lynda’s list of certifications is impressive and so is her heart for children who need an encourager, an advocate, and a friend. For all of that, she has been richly rewarded and can’t think of anything else she’d rather be doing.
“The reason that I’ve gotten recognized was because of the success of my students,” says Lynda, “and what more could you ask for?”