A FRENCH teacher who left her family and friends to spend a year in Sunderland is bidding a fond adieu to he adopted home.
Martine Coguiec arrived in the city knowing few people and speaking only broken English.
But this week she leaves an adopted Mackem, having won the hearts of Wearside’s schoolchildren.
Martine has spent the past year based at Castletown Primary School having travelled from her home in Sunderland’s twin city of Saint-Nazaire.
Normally a teacher at Ecole Escurat, Martine has been living in Roker and exploring everything Wearside has to offer.
The married mum first visited schools in Sunderland as part of an EU-funded Comenius Regio education programme about sustainable travel and transport. She was so taken with Castletown Primary and the city that she applied to the French Government for financial support to return as a teacher.
Martine said: “On my first visit I immediately felt such a strong affinity with the people and the place that I was determined to return, and do what I can as a teacher to help strengthen the close ties between our two cities still further.
“The longest lasting relationships always begin in the early stages of our lives, which is why bringing the children and young people of our communities closer together through education partnership projects such as these is so important.
“I will never forget my time in Sunderland and the warm welcome I received from everyone, and look forward to coming back as often as I can.”
During the last 12 months Martine has not only helped in class with lessons about French language and culture, but has also immersed herself in the life of the school and the wider community.
Martine spent four days a week at Castletown Primary where she not only taught, but also took part in wider activities such as the annual City Sings school choral competition, lifeguarding sessions on Roker beach and a week’s residential course at Derwent Hill outdoor activities centre.
Martine also spent one day a week working at a range of primary, secondary and special schools across the city including Barbara Priestman School, Burnside Primary, Fatfield Primary, Hill View Infant School, John F Kennedy Primary, Southwick Primary and St Paul’s Primary.
In her spare time, Martine has enjoyed days out in the Northumberland coast, visiting Gibside, biking to North Shields and exploring the North East.
Judith Howe, assistant head of school at Castletown Primary, said: “We will all miss Martine, she not only became part of the school she became part of the family and the community and made a massive contribution during her time here in Sunderland.
“She not only helped improve our children’s language skills and abilities, but also to increase all our understanding and appreciation of French culture while also getting involved in a huge range of activities outside class which included helping with the school choir.
“During her time with us, away from her home and her family, Martine contributed so much and really immersed herself in our culture and history, helping us all to appreciate even more what we all have together.”