French teacher hopes to inspire students
Left homeless and abandoned after being kicked out by her mother at age 13, French teacher Sylvie Wickenheiser said, “Growing up was truly traumatic and catastrophic having no place to call home.”
Wickenheiser said, “My family had problems with drugs and alcohol that degenerated and created a bad environment for all of us. Being the youngest, a couple of my siblings tried to help, but they had their own problems, so I couldn’t stay with them.”
Wickenheiser grew up in Quebec, the French speaking part of Canada, which is part of the reason she teaches it here at Bel Air. She feels there’s something about the Bel Air students that make them different.
Wickenheiser said, “I think the students at Bel Air are a bit different from the rest of the population. There’s a certain insecurity about them and a certain fear of being open that causes them to be hesitant.”
Not having a place to live during high school, Wickenheiser still managed to become successful with a bachelor degree in science in social physiology. In a sense, school was her escape from the bad environment she lived in.
“Being homeless is something you keep hidden because it’s a shameful thing, but I was very good at school. I had good grades and was involved in many extracurricular programs.”
Coping wasn’t exactly something Wickenheiser knew how to do. It came naturally to her. Somehow, she knew she’d be OK.
Wickenheiser said, “I don’t know how I coped. I guess somehow I knew that I’d make it through – like there was something within me that gave me hope.”
She believes if a person has an education, he/ she can do anything.
“I want the kids at Bel Air to understand the world they live in. I want them to know that more than anything they need an education because with that they can do anything.”
Wickenheiser’s harsh childhood is what connects her to the students at Bel Air.
Wickenheiser said, “I had a difficult childhood because there was a lot of conflict in my family. Therefore, I’m very familiar with what some of the Bel Air students might be going through. I want them to know that even though I was homeless, I finished high school amazingly.”
By Amber Gentry