Who we are

Our staff is made up of educators, Francophiles, and native speakers who wish to share their love of the French language and culture. We are members of the American Association of Teachers of French Chicago/Northern Illinois Chapter.

goutas-1 Director:  Dr. Sylvie Goutas received her Ph.D. in French Literature from the University of Chicago, her Master in French Literature from the University of Paris 7 (France), her Master in French as a Foreign Language Pedagogy from the University of Rouen (France), and her Bachelor in English Studies from the University of Reims (France). Between 1995 and 1998, she lived in Spain and studied at the Complutense University of Madrid, where she obtained a Diploma in Hispanic Studies and a Certificate in Spanish as a Foreign Language Pedagogy.  She started teaching at a middle school in France in 1991.  After spending one year as a French Lecturer and an administrative intern at Florida State University in 1994-1995, she taught Business French in Madrid for three years. From 2000 to 2012, she was a Lecturer at the University of Chicago. She also taught at several institutions in the Chicago area, such as the School of the Art Institute from 2004 to 2006, Loyola University from 2009 to 2012, and Daley College in 2012.  After graduating from the University of Chicago, she became Visiting Assistant Professor at Dominican University, then taught as such at Wheaton College, Illinois, from 2013 to 2016. She currently works as a Full-Time Lecturer and Coordinator in French at the University of Chicago.  In 2000, she was offered by Dr. Luz-María N. Berd to teach at the Benedictine University French and Spanish Immersion Weekend programs then served as a staff member before hosting the Journée Intensive en Français program in 2013 at Dominican University. She became director of the Journée Intensive en Français in 2018 after having been assistant director for 5 years. She is a current member of the AATF Chicago/Northern Illinois Chapter Executive Council.

Former Director: Donna Czarnecki received her Bachelor of Arts degree in French from Mundelein College (Illinois), her Master of Arts in French degree from The Middlebury College French School (Vermont), and her Reading Certificate from National Louis University (Illinois.). Between 1969 and 1978 she taught French at Marist High School (Illinois). During her last 4 years there she co-chaired its Foreign Language Department. From 1978 until she retired in 2008 she taught French at Lyons Township High School – LTHS (La Grange/Western Springs, Illinois.) Between 1981 and 1987 she chaired the LTHS Foreign Language Department.  In addition to her teaching responsibilities at Marist and Lyons Township High School, Donna began teaching in 1976 at the George Williams College/ Benedictine University French Immersion Weekend programs and in 1978 became the program’s director, a position she held until 2001 when the Immersion Weekends were discontinued.

She has received many honors for her teaching (Le Prix du Chapitre Award, 1987; the American Association of Teachers of French ( AATF) Outstanding French Teacher in the United States Award,1991; Illinois State Board of Education Those Who Excel Award of Meritorious Service, 2001);  for promoting the study of French language and culture in the United States (Knighthood – Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques – was conferred upon her in 1999 by the French Government); and for her efforts in immersing students in the French language and culture ( the International Student Experience Award, 2007).  She has served four two-year terms on the AATF Executive Council and is an active member of the AATF French Advocacy team which created the French Advocacy Wiki, the goal of which is to strengthen, promote, and uphold French programs throughout the United States. In 2013 Donna became director of the Journée Intensive en Français having been assistant director since its inception in 2008. She retired from that position in June 2018.

Pat for profileFormer Director:  Patricia Olderr taught at Hinsdale South High School in Darien, Illinois for 20 years, retiring in 2007.  After teaching a semester at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois, she decided to initiate the French Immersion Day Program for high school students by applying for funding from the local and national American Association of Teachers of French (AATF) organizations.  In addition to the immersion program, Mrs. Olderr is also an instructor for the Oak Park French Club.  She taught for the George Williams College/Illinois Benedictine University French Immersion Weekend program from 1983 to 1994, and acted as assistant director from 1983 to 1985.  She is a member of the American Association of Teachers of French and the Illinois Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.  She earned the Master of Arts in French degree from the Middlebury College (Vermont) French School, and completed the DML (Doctor of Modern Languages) course work in French and Spanish.  In 2013 Mme Olderr was named Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques by the French government for her work in the teaching and promotion of French language, culture, and civilization.


This program was inspired by Dr. Luz-María N. Berd who created the French Immersion Weekend program which was hosted for many years by George Williams College, and then by Illinois Benedictine University.  She modeled the program on Middlebury College’s (Middlebury, Vermont) immersion concept and pledge, and she in turn, inspired us.

Donna Czarnecki was the director of the George Williams College/Illinois Benedictine University French Immersion weekends from 1978-2001. Patricia Olderr served as staff member and then as assistant director for a number of years. They organized the first Chicagoland immersion day for high school students in 2008 at West Leyden High School in Northlake, IL, supported by grants from local and national AATF. Dr. Laura Burch and Dr. Jeffrey Carlson at Dominican University generously offered to host the program starting in 2011.

We are supported by:

AATF Chicago/Northern Illinois

AATF National

French Cultural Services

Quebec Government Office in Chicago

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