Born and educated in Nantes, France, in a large family, I arrived in Maine in 1974, as the first Amity Aide at Mt Ararat School in Topsham. There, I met my husband, David Whittlesey, an English teacher. We went back to live in Nantes where I finished my literary diploma and where we got married. From there began a long life of partnership that continues, more than 45 years later, after four children and three grandchildren. I started teaching French as a Foreign Language Teacher at Mt Ararat High School, under the tutelage of Nancy Thompson, an inspiring mentor who shared with me her joy of teaching. In 1980, my husband joined the Foreign Service, which started our international life. Throughout our diplomatic posts around the world (Iceland, Morocco, Washington DC, Bangladesh, Switzerland...), I have always taught, according to local needs.
Teaching has been my passion, and it still is, even after my retirement in 2020! After raising four bilingual children, I am particularly interested in helping children and adults become bilingual or keep up with their French heritage, hence my interest in this young Alliance Française du Maine.
We are fortunate to be in an environment where French is very present, initially because of the historical presence of Franco-Canadian families, who came to Maine at the end of the 19th century, early 20th century. Then, more recently, the large presence of immigrants from francophone Africa, and finally a smaller population of French-speaking European immigrants have contributed to enrich and give a new vitality to Maine francophonie.
So French is alive and well in Maine ! Our Alliance Française supports and encourages rich exchanges between all these communities who share, if not the same culture, at least the same language. I am most happy and honored to help, in any capacity, to build a place for Francophone exchanges, based on fraternity and tolerance.
American by birth but francophile of heart, I am delighted with the creation of this organization. I studied French in the United States during the majority of my schooling, with long stays in Poitiers and Strasbourg. After earning a Master’s degree from Columbia University in the field of international economic policy, I Work for an American bank in Paris, for 6 years. It was a beautiful time in my life, where I blossomed personally as well as professionally. Based in Maine for 12 years, I am married to an American who also has a great love for French culture. We have a daughter who is fluent in French and wants to continue to study, speak and live it at all costs. That’s why I get involved in the AF of Maine so that my family can benefit from the cultural and linguistic context it represents. Professionally, I left finance a little while ago, and I’m now running a seaweed start-up called Ocean’s Balance. We manufacture seaweed-based foods and promote sustainable cultivation and harvesting in Maine. I have the opportunity to contact Breton counterparts from time to time about seaweed and every time I see a deepening of my vocabulary …!
Bonjour! I have recently relocated to Maine after seventeen years in the UK with my wife and two daughters and we are about to reunite three generations under the same roof—much in the same way I was raised in my little dairy farming community off the west coast of France (La Vendée). Professionally, I keep working towards designing, building and financing tailor-made circular economy partnerships at the crossroads between sustainable food production and renewable energy. I believe that it is the right time, for a new positive, generous and global kind of Franco/French identity, one to be built on new, renewed and robust foundations around sustainability, innovation and protection as well as inclusion and diversity. One which honours our varied histories—while never losing sight of our shared future.
Members of the board
Nathalie is a native French speaker, originally from Normandy, but she was born and grew up until the age of 11 in Ivory Coast. After graduating from the University of Angers in the Pays de Loire region of France with her Master’s degree in Applied Languages to International Business and spending her final year studying in Ireland with the Erasmus program, Nathalie was hired by the University of Maine system to come be a teaching assistant for one year. She ended up meeting her future husband and continued teaching at UMM for five years. Nathalie’s first experience teaching had been while in Limerick, Ireland, at the local Alliance Française. Nathalie has now been living in Maine for the past 26 years and has also taught at UMA, as well as at the elementary and secondary school levels, more recently at Mt. Ararat HS in Topsham. Nathalie is also the President of the Maine chapter of the American Association of Teachers of French, and the French translator for the African newspaper for the new Mainers, Amjambo Africa! She is passionate about teaching and sharing her native language, and the Francophone cultures. An avid reader and traveler, the mother of 2 grown up sons and the grandmother of an 8 year-old little girl , Nathalie lives in Edgecomb with her husband and her cats.
I am originally from Montreal, Quebec and lived In Nantes and Rome where I met my wife, Heidi. In the past 10 years or so, we have lived in various places in the United States and are currently living in Portland, Maine with our daughter Chloé who recently turned 2. We are raising her in French and English so she can have the opportunity to embrace both cultures. I am a visual art teacher in the Portland district and I also have a studio practice, where spend most of my time. I joined the Alliance Française du Maine this past winter and I am excited to meet people who are willing to share our language and culture.
I am from Lewiston Auburn and my oirigins come from French Canada. I spent two years in higschool in the South of France in Nîmes. Furthermore, I did my superior education studying protection of the environment at Saint Félicien in the lake Saint John region of Québec. I work now at Museum LA in Lewiston, where teach anbout the industrial period as well as immigration. I have been implicating myself in French Language causes for many years as it is a subject that I hold very precious. I am passionate about foreign languages, history, as well as wildlife amongst many other subjects.
Originally from Burundi, Thierry Yungenge has been in Portland for two years. He is the Director of Internal Audit at UNUM Group. He is happy to join the AFduME Board to help us promote the French culture and language, while helping to build bridges with the Burundian community. Thierry is also on the board of an association that provides training and contributes to “women empowerment” in Burundi. Mr. Yungenge holds a Master's degree in Applied Financial Mathematics (M.Sc.), a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Business Administration and a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Accounting.
Jacynthe Blais Jacques, a native French speaker from the Chaudière-Apalaches region of Québec, has lived and raised her family in Maine for the past 20+ years. While focusing on raising her family, she became acquainted with various local cultural and language programs and later got involved with the French Heritage Language Program activities at the Franco Center, where she taught French in after-school settings, developed family classes and extra-curricular programs, incorporating collaborative efforts with local agencies and a team of part-time teachers, assistants, and volunteers, to create cultural and linguistic opportunities for area students and adults. Passionate about language learning & access, as well as with the impact these have on community, she is now managing interpreting and accessibility programs at St. Mary’s Hospital. She is also the proud mémère of a lovely bilingual grand-child, and is staying involved as a board member of AFduME and Literacy Volunteers-Androscoggin.
Pierre Le Gall
Born and raised in France, Pierre started his career in advertising agencies, before moving to Maine in 2015 where he works as Marketing Director for CIEE, a study abroad nonprofit organization. At CIEE and with the AFduME, Pierre gets to do he loves best: helping people connect through language and intercultural exchange.
Founding Member: Marie-Gaelle Casset-Ford
The Alliance Francaise du Maine would not exist today if it wasn't for Marie-Gaelle. Merci Marie-Gaelle for all your contributions to our organization!
Marie-Gaëlle Casset-Ford, grew up between Paris and Brittany and lives in Maine where she founded her family. Mother of two young girls, she gave herself the mission of a bilingual, artistic and multicultural education that led her to the creation of a nursery school “La Petite Ecole”, founded in Portland in 2009 and then moved to South Portland in 2018. She is delighted to see a French Alliance in Portland bloom, to bring together an intercultural, Francophile and Francophone community.
Growing up in the Boston area, Sarah spent time visiting France and was fascinated by the gestures, foods, and cultural differences. At her childhood home, she overheard the French language as her mother taught High School French and tutored. After discovering French music and film during her French studies beginning in fourth grade, the francophone seed was planted. She traveled to France as a teenager and spent two summers at a French immersion program in Nova Scotia. After having minored in French and Francophone studies in college along with a major of Sociology, Sarah moved to Avignon, France and worked at a boulangerie for two years. After moving back to the United States to receive her Master's degree in Occupational Therapy, she and her French husband moved from Oregon to Maine where they are raising their four year old daughter in a bilingual household filled with French music, books and lively conversation. Sarah works privately as a pediatric occupational therapist. She spends her free time exploring the woods of Maine, drinking coffee every occasion, improving eco-friendly ways of life and spending time with friends.
Karen Girondel has been teaching French her entire adult life. After 38 years with teenagers in the Lexington Public Schools, she has gone on to share her love of French language and culture among former teenagers, aka adults, through Lexington Community Education where it’s ok to make mistakes as long as we are communicating in the language of Tintin, Catherine Deneuve and Molière. Now that she is living in Portland, Maine, she is thrilled to be able to continue orchestrating conversation via Zoom.
I am delighted to be a teacher for the Alliance Française. I have been a student and life-long learner of French since 1984, when I spent the Academic Year 1984-85 in Rennes, France attending L’Université de Haute Bretagne. I lived with a French family for that year and to say that the experience impacted my life would be a gross understatement.
Since then I have done my best to surround myself with the French Language and Culture. To that end, I transferred to the University of Maine at Fort Kent where I took part in “The Northeast Expedition”. This travel study program had its participants camping our way from the north shore of the Saint Laurence to the Berkshires of Massachusetts, for one semester as we learned about the ecology, agriculture, natural history and culture of our region. After my two years in Fort Kent I went back to France where I studied for one year at L’Université François Rabelais in Tours.
Having lived in Fort Kent, France and on my frequent trips to Québec I have been exposed to many of the regional variants of the French Language and have learned a great deal of the variety of French Culture. I look forward to sharing my knowledge and experience with the Alliance Française community.
Chantal grew up in the suburbs of Paris. After graduating from high school with a Baccalaureate in Science, she started university in Paris XII, then moved to Boston, MA, where she finished her education at Bentley College with a Bachelor’s in Accountancy. Chantal also studied yoga and became a certified yoga teacher in Cambridge, MA in 2005. She worked several years in the banking field as a manager and taught yoga in several states, including Florida for many years. Chantal moved to Maine and started teaching French in 2015. She received a DELF Teaching Certificate from the French Ministry of Education and graduated from the Extended Teacher Education Program (ETEP- Masters in Teaching and Learning) at USM. She teaches French at South Portland High School and DELF classes at the French School of Maine. Chantal enjoys spending time with family and friends, going for walks and discovering new places. She is very happy to be part of the Alliance Française du Maine and is looking forward to meeting more francophones.
BA, French language, Université du Burundi;
D.E.S.S. in Management, major in finance and accounting, Institut Supérieur de Gestion des Entreprises, Bujumbura, Burundi.
During 12 years, I taught French in various schools in Burundi where I lived as a refugee till I went back to my country, Rwanda in 1995. There I instead worked in the finance area before coming back to teaching French when I moved to the USA. I have been working for Portland Public Schools in Maine since 2016.
When I do not work, I enjoy reading, watching sports on TV and walking on Portland trails.
Nana Kanjinga is originally from the Congo. Born and raised in Kinshasa, Nana speaks French, Lingala, English and Tshiluba. From 2006 to 2014, Nana lived in Capetown, South Africa where she learned to speak English fluently. Nana has worked as a customer service representative in various companies. Living in Portland Maine since 2015, Nana graduated from SMCC with a degree in Early Childhood Education. Nana is currently a student at USM pursuing a degree in Linguistics with a concentration in French. Nana has made Portland Maine her second home and has started a family here and works as an interpreter and translator for Maine Medical, Portland Public Schools and LAP. Outside of work, Nana enjoys walking, music, cooking and enjoying a good meal in good company.
Michael was born in Kazakhstan and grew up in Ukraine. He moved to Maine with his family in 2000. Michael has taught French, Russian and English for more than twenty years to students of different nationalities, backgrounds and ages in various educational institutions - from public secondary schools and schools of higher education to private schools and colleges- in Ukraine, Thailand, Turkey, and the USA. Michael has traveled extensively in the USA, Asia, and Europe. He is very much into nature, hiking, meditation, and yoga. He also enjoys spending time with his 7-year-old grandson Felix and 5-year-old twin granddaughters Athena and Amelia, and learning from them how to be spontaneous and live in the moment.
Rene is Togolese by birth. He was raised in Togo and graduated from college in Lome. He pursued higher education in Québec and graduated with a Master’s degree from the University of Rimouski, Québec. He has been teaching French in Maine since 2007 and is currently a French teacher at Scarborough High School. He joins the AFduME this spring with more than 20 years of teaching experience. He likes to travel with his family and enjoy exploring Maine.
Mary lived in France and attended a French lycée as a teenager and more recently lived in Quebec City for two years. She has a B.A. and an M.A. in French literature and completed her PhD in Canadian History with a focus on French Canada. In the past, she has taught French courses at the University of Maine and at the University of Southern Maine. She currently teaches at the University of Mane as an adjunct professor.
Susie Pollard is originally from Florida. After studying photography and French, she was hired to open a French stock photo agency in Paris. She worked and lived in Montreal and then Paris for over 7 years. She later earned a Master of French from University of South Florida, where she also taught French at all levels. She moved to Portland from Austin in fall 2021. Susie is looking forward to getting to know her students and to finding fellow francophiles in Maine.
I did my primary and secondary studies in Kinshasa in Catholic schools where I obtained my baccalaureate in math-physics in 2005 and the university, at the Protestant where I obtained my Bachelor's degree in finance, banking, and insurance, in 2010 in Kinshasa. I had to work for 5 years in the banking sector and then I immigrated to the United States in March 2015 thanks to the lottery on the diversity of the American people with a residence card of 10 years.
Arrived in the United States with my wife, my family has grown, we are 5 in my household. In the journey of my integration in the United States, I had to improve my English, to work in a manufacturing plant automobile parts (Nichols) being a machine operator, being a tutor in the Mathematics department of SMCC and at the moment I am a manager in a house that supports people living with disabilities, I am a tutor in the French department of USM, I want to get my bachelor's degree in Applied Mathematics and Operations Research at the University of Southern Maine (USM) and I became an American citizen in 2020.
Cathy was born and raised in the North of France. Before she came to the U.S., she studied International Business and enjoyed traveling through Europe. She arrived twenty years ago in Maine as an Amity aid – a teacher assistant – at Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham. Her goal was to improve her English but she fell in love with teaching so she stayed in Maine, raised a family and has been a French and Spanish teacher for the past 12 years in the public school system. She loves to share her passion for languages, cultures and travel with her students: she has taken groups to Puerto Rico, Chile, Québec and France. When she is not teaching, Cathy loves to cook for her two boys, do yoga, read and enjoy the beauty of Nature in Maine, especially the beach!
Manon is a French American artist living and teaching in Maine. Her art is driven by the artistic process, and includes multiple media. A process driven maker, she revels in sharing a wide toolbox of skills, from watercolor to printmaking.