French teacher Nicole Chouinard replaces former teacher Melissa Saeed years after studying abroad

Gracie Warda, Writer

When the position of former French teacher Melissa Saeed opened up, a replacement was needed. Saeed had someone in mind to fill her shoes; someone who was a close friend of hers.

“I knew that Mrs. Chouinard knew my situation inside and out,” Saeed said. “She’d heard me talk about all the lessons I taught, all the kids that I was teaching, the staff members, everything; she knew it already. And I really liked my kids, I didn’t want to leave them high and dry. And when a new teacher comes in, they’re going to do the best job possible, but it makes the teacher feel comfortable, just like it would a parent, to leave my kids with someone I know. And someone I know would do it the way I would’ve wanted it done. I knew that she would love Fenton and love the people.”

With prior teaching experience under her belt in many areas, Chouinard was comfortable taking the position.

“This is my seventeenth year teaching,” Chouinard said. “I taught French and was an athletic trainer in Bay City. I was a French teacher and assistant athletic director in Flint and I have taught French, health, phys ed & child development in Dearborn Heights District seven for the past 13 years. Madame Saeed and I lived in Europe together about 20 years ago, and we’ve been friends for about 20 years. So I’ve heard about how the district is and how awesome the kids are, and the position and I was just really interested in it.”

Saeed and Chouinard studied at the Catholic University of Lille in France before returning to the U.S. to teach.

“We lived in the university dorms while we took four months of classes,” Chouinard said. “On weekends we would just go to the train station and pick a location and hop on the train and off we would go. We would go and study and explore and use our language; it was so cool to be immersed and buried in the background and learn through our experiences.”

Meeting very shortly before studying abroad, the two established a bond over the course of the trip.

“I had not known her prior to that, and we met through our French study abroad program,” Saeed said. “We traveled every weekend all over Europe, every place we could go. We’ve just been friends ever since.”

Throughout their time in Europe, Chouinard and Saeed gained many cultural experiences and practiced their new language.

“Honestly, it was the experiences we had. More than the places,” Saeed said. “So much of travel is the places, but for me it’s more about the people and the experiences you create in the place. We had one really fun weekend in Luxembourg and we wound up going to Germany by chance with some people that we had met up with. Because everybody travels over there, you meet up with people your own age, and it’s a lot safer over there than it is here.”

Chouinard and Saeed remain friends and continue to help each other in their careers.