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Annual French Award brings interactive learning to high school English class

For her project to expand the curriculum of Greek and Roman mythology in her ninth grade English class, Lacie Mallander, a freshmen and sophomore English teacher at Mayfield High School, was awarded the 2007 French Annual Improvement of Secondary Teaching Award.

The $4,900 award is the most prestigious external award given by New Mexico State University's College of Education.

Mallander's project, "Ancient Greek and Roman Mythology in Modern Culture," will have her students read ancient Greek and Roman myths, study their heroes and archetypes and discuss how many modern stories are based or themed after the Greek tragedies.

"Almost everything they read after their freshman year will be based off these myths," Mallander said. "They will be able to reference what they read back to this class, and they will understand and appreciate it more."

She said the class also will talk about the Greek Olympics, their influence on society and how the Greeks believed in the balance between strength in body and in mind. For the final project, the students will play a Jeopardy-like trivia game and then compete in their own Olympic-style games.

"The idea is to make the class more fun and interactive," she said. "I want to get them out of their seats."

Mallander received the French Award at a spring ceremony. During next year's ceremony, she will give a presentation on the success of the project. She has taught at Mayfield High School for more than a year and previously taught at San Andres High School.

The French Award, founded in 1981 by Ralph and Josiah French of Las Cruces to honor the memory of their aunts, Fannie and Floy French, is given annually to encourage research and application of creative ideas for the improvement of secondary teaching. The French sisters devoted their lives to education.

Floy French, born in 1878, worked in library management in New Mexico and later as head librarian at Carnegie Library in Indiana. Fannie French, born in 1883, graduated from New Mexico State University in 1902 when it was the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. She organized the first Las Cruces High School and was its first principal. She later became an education teacher at Morton College in Illinois. Both women returned to Las Cruces after they retired.