28 May 2008

Portrait #4: Isabelle NOURY

Isabelle NOURY, PhD
Professor of Languages
AKA coolest prof ever

This woman was by far the best French professor I have ever had.
Picture a woman of somewhere in her fifties. No one really knows how old she is, because like the classic French woman, she is in wonderful shape. She has short gray hair with undertones of black, and her eyebrows are a very dark brown, so she must have been a brunette when she was younger. Mme Noury is also Bretonne, which means that both of her parents were born in Bretagne, and her ancestors are Celts. The Bretons are very proud of their heritage.

Noury wears a lot of dark colors, but not as much black as most French. And of course she has the chic square frame brand name reading glasses. Which French person doesn't? I'm really starting to wonder if Europeans know what contacts really are...

The real reason Mme Noury is so amazing is that she scares us all to death. She knows everything about the French language, and though she doesn't speak English, she's been teaching so long that she can read student papers without knowing who wrote them, and then tell us whether the author was anglophone, hispanophone, asiatique etc. It's scary. When she explains things to us, she gets really close, like a foot away from your face. Sometimes you're in class doing work and suddenly you realise she's speaking and you look up and she's right there talking to you and you're not even the one who had asked the question!

If you ask her why something is the way that it is, she'll not only go through why that is that way, but why this other thing which is kinda similar is the same way, and then she'll go through the exceptions to all the rules that she just explained.

Every student I know is slightly terrified and completely in awe of this professor. She introduced herself on the first day of class as the Princess of CIREFE. I had her for my Written Expression class, which for the first month was in a non-CIREFE building a three minute walk away from where everyone else has/had classes. Now, no French university building is pretty. They don't care what you put on the outside of buildings, it's what goes on on the inside that counts (which is why their computer labs suck and all their students wear Louis Vuitton and Puma...hm......incongruity!). At the end of that first month, Noury decided that she didn't like having class down there. She wanted to be in the "clean and pretty" batîment E, where the rest of CIREFE was.

So Mark and Johanna's Written Expression class got moved to the building we had been in, and our class moved into the room they had been using. Princess!

Her class was also one of the hardest. She didn't grade us easy. She told us she was going to grade like a French teacher, and she graded like a French teacher. I can remember getting one short page-length essay back from her. On the top was written 13/20, and next to it was "très bien". I almost died from happiness. Remember that they don't use a point system, so the 13 I got was really like a B or something. The "très bien" next to it didn't just mean it was "very good"...it meant that I had done good work.

Noury was also one of the only teachers this semester who would remember my name outside of class and greet me on the sidewalk outside of the building. The other prof who did this was Monsieur Blanchet, another wonderful person.

I wish that I had had more time with Noury and her intimidating teaching style. She actually made us want to work in order to please her...

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