Ann Sunderland loves France and everything about the French culture.

Ann Sunderland loves France and everything about the French culture.

She first visited France in 1967 as a student, spending her junior year in Bordeaux. It was there that her love for all things French grew.

“I love French and France,” said the former teacher at Truman High School. “I enjoy the language, the people, the way of life. I adore the cities, the countryside, the food, the culture, the literature, all of it. I was passionate about French when I taught, and I continue to absolutely love speaking French and traveling to French-speaking areas of the world.”

Sunderland was recently recognized by the French government for her contributions in the promotion of the French language and culture. She received a medal that indicates that she is a Chevalier dans l’ordre des Palmes Academiques. An award established in 1808 by Napoleon Bonaparte, the Academic Palms is the oldest civilian accolade and one of the highest honors awarded by the French government. The French minister of national education recommends nominees to the French prime minister.

“It is the culmination of all I have worked for,” Sunderland said. “There is no higher accolade for a French teacher. I had hoped to be so recognized eventually. It is really very special to me.”

Sunderland, who retired from Truman two years ago, is president of both the American Association of Teachers of French and the Alliance Francaise de Kansas City. She has also served as president of the Foreign Language Association of Missouri and began as a regional representative of the AATF in 2000, retiring from that position in 2008.

Sunderland said her love of French always came through in her teaching and to be recognized in such a way by the French government “is a honor.”

“I made French real for my students because I was so involved with all things French. I always told them that I could see no separation between my job and my life, because so much of my life has revolved around French,” she said. “They enjoyed my enthusiasm and picked it up from me. I believe I was excited and happy in class because I loved what I did, and I loved French.

“It was a great career for me. I loved teaching at Truman High School, I loved my students, and I am happy to continue to serve my profession out of the classroom in my retirement.”