3/28/2016 6:01:00 AM
Making a connection
Latin, French teacher makes Camp Verde her home
Kristen Gressly (Photo by Bill Helm)
Kristen Gressly has more stamps in her passport than the average Verde Valley resident, so much so that her idea of a good time is to stay at home.
"Staying put is a vacation for me," the 24-year-old says.
But where is home for Camp Verde United Christian School's Latin and French teacher?
The Ivory Coast.
"It was the one place I kind of had the most connection to," Gressly says. "The French-African mix is very much home to me."
Most of her life, Gressly has lived in faraway places, such as Nigeria, Guinea, India and Senegal.
"I've mostly lived in West Africa," she says matter-of-factly, as her father currently lives in South Sudan while working for the United Nations. "I know how to blend into a place. But there are times when I don't feel like I fit in."
Arizona might seem like another world to someone with overseas roots, but with parents who were born and raised in America - the same parents who attended Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University, Camp Verde really is not that far off.
"I really like Arizona," Gressly says. "I'm an outdoors person. Kayaking, hiking. I hike Mt. Humphreys. I enjoy that. Kayaking the Verde River. I really like that. It's open. Good weather. Good climate."
Gressly is in her first year teaching non-American languages. Most people call them foreign language, but Gressly knows so many different tongues, it's hard to know which came first.
Actually, Gressly first learned English, the language she and her family spoke in their home. But in school, French is what she mostly spoke and learned.
"I didn't learn how to read or write English until I was 13," says Gressly, who besides French and Latin also speaks a little German, a little Spanish, and a few African languages "enough to converse."
Gressly says the key to learning a language is to treat it as a "tool, that it has a structure."
"And to develop an appreciation of the rules of the language."
Gressly beginning to make Arizona her home. And UCS Principal Kathy Becker is pleased that her new teacher found Camp Verde.
"Having lived in different places, she brings a great wealth and understanding of her experiences," says Becker.
"One day I walked into her class. She had her kids saying Latin phrases that we hear but we don't think about anymore. Latin is so much in the history of the world. It's beautiful that we can provide that experience because of her."
As adjustments go, Gressly is happy here in Camp Verde, she says.
"First it's that honeymoon period, where it's new and it's amazing," Gressly says. "Then, two or three months of being homesick.
"Then, you don't want to leave."
-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42 and on Facebook at @CampVerdeBugle