Gaelle Assoune

REP+ College, Nice, France

Gaelle  Assoune

Gaelle has spent much of her professional life trying to widen the horizons of teaching beyond the boundaries of the national teaching system. She believes that in the French system, there is not enough room for experimentation, and that it is very difficult for teachers to innovate or depart from the rules. As a result, she has faced opposition from former colleagues simply for trying to organise partnerships with external organisations to promote respect in sport. 

For the last eight years, Gaelle has been teaching at a REP+ college in Nice – a category of school in which students come from immigrant families, often from the Maghreb and Cape Verde regions. Many families are poor, live in low-cost housing, and have little or no access to the Internet or to computers/tablets. Students are often disconnected from the general culture, ecological concerns, and their responsibilities as future citizens. They face stereotypes and racism, and have developed a strong sense of community as separate from French society.  

In order to help these students, Gaelle has developed a neuroscience-inspired pedagogy that creates a climate of confidence in the classroom – where pupils feel listened to and appreciated, but are also pushed to the top of their capabilities. It also enables them to develop the psycho-social skills necessary for a citizen of the 21st century. Critical thinking is encouraged using a methodology called “the investigation of meaning” – a framework of three axes that guide the student to ask themselves questions. 

Gaelle makes a habit of sharing her ideas, methodologies and resources with colleagues, publishing her courses on a padlet alongside reports of interest to educators. She has also carried out philosophy and empathy workshops for children and parents free of charge at the media library of the district in which she teaches. However, Gaelle believes her greatest reward is having her students grow up and tell her that they have succeeded, that they are parents, or that they have made their dream come true. Many of her students have written to her or left messages to express appreciation for the attention and help she gave them. 

If Gaelle wins the Global Teacher Prize, she would like to buy a property to support children and their families in their educational needs. This would focus on early years education, giving young children a taste of reading, experience, autonomy and confidence to help them become responsible and respectful citizens. In the short term, she would also like to provide free empathy, reading and philosophy workshops to families who want them, which could then become citywide support programs and training courses in the medium term.