French student interns with WNC |

French student interns with WNC

Christine Kuklica
A French foreign exchange student visited Fallon for three weeks and partnered with Western Nevada College for an internship that allowed her to learn about the United States school system. From left are Director of WNC Sherry Black and Beryl Michalak.
Christine Kuklica / LVN |

Western Nevada College partnered with a French Alps university to provide an internship opportunity for one of its students.

Beryl Michalak, a student from France, contacted WNC Director Sherry Black in January. Michalak was working on her Master’s in Education, graduating a month ago, at the university Espe De Bonneville.

Michalak said her dad knows Paul Plouviez (area ranch owner), who suggested Michalak contacted Black for the internship opportunity.

“The inspector of the ‘Academie de Grenoble’ (regional education authority) approves the students who wish to visit the U.S. to complete the educational internship,” Michalak said.

She said obtaining a teaching job in France is different than in the states. She said in order to teach, a master’s degree is required. She said last year once she completed her bachelor’s degree, she had to “compete” for an opportunity to become a teacher with approximately 2,000 applicants and only 350 open positions. Michalak said applicants must go through two oral and two writing exams and also interviews to be considered for a position. Once they are chosen, they must complete their master’s degree and internship.

The internship consists mainly of observing a different country’s educational system and classrooms, Michalak said.

Michalak is training to be a primary school teacher with students from 3-10 years old.

Black said once Michalak’s internship was approved and all the hosting arrangements were in place, Black contacted Principal Shawn Purrell at Numa Elementary School.

“I know most of the excellent teachers and staff at Numa, and I know that Shawn always supports community and educational efforts,” Black said. “Shawn quickly agreed to assist and worked with her supervisor and her university to complete all the necessary international paperwork.”

Black took Michalak to Numa where Deb Clifford and Noreen Swenson arranged for her to follow the professional development staff as they observed teachers throughout the day. During two of the three weeks she was here, Michalak observed different grade levels with varying teachers in the district.

“I’ve always liked working with children and showing them how to learn new things,” she said. “The staff in the district were very welcoming and the students were great to work with. Everyone was very positive and helpful.”

Michalak said the school system in the states is different from France. She said in France school is year round with two months on and two weeks off. The school hours are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 8:30-11:30 a.m., a break and then it resumes from 1:30-3:45 p.m. She said teachers and students have a half-day on Wednesdays.

Beginning teachers earn about $20,400 (USD) a year with raises every few years, she said. One of the reasons Michalak chose to become a teacher is it is a secure job.

“Once you become a teacher and you are in the system, it is almost impossible for you to lose your job or get fired,” she said.

Michalak said she is also grateful for the support and kindness Black, the district employees and students showed her during her time in Fallon.