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Northern Ontario French school, with just 19 students, celebrates 10th anniversary

Staff and students at École catholique de l'Enfant-Jésus in Dryden, Ont., are celebrating the tenth anniversary of the French-language school, throughout the month of June.

'We live and breathe French,' says teacher Stephanie Trottier to describe the Dryden school atmosphere

Stephanie Trottier teaches grades 2, 3 and 4 at Ecole catholique l'Enfant-Jesus in Dryden, Ontario. The school is marking its tenth anniversary in June. (Cathy Alex/CBC)

The French school in Dryden is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month.. And if you didn't know there was a French school in Dryden, you're not alone. Cathy Alex has the story 6:09

Staff and students at École catholique de l'Enfant-Jésus in Dryden, Ont., are celebrating the tenth anniversary of the French-language school, throughout the month of June.

"We live and breathe French," says Stéphanie Trottier, who teaches grades 2, 3 and 4.

All nine staff members are bilingual and they are committed to helping the 19 students, in junior kindergarten to grade 8, learn not only the language but also traditionial Francophone culture, said Trottier.

For example, there is an annual Father's Day breakfast, held in French, and each Christmas the teachers organize midnight mass and a tourtiere dinner.

"With being fully immersed in a French environment, the kids don't just pick up the language, they pick up the culture because they're constantly around it, because it's not just the language, it's the food, it's the jokes, it's the being," she said.

A tree painted on the office wall in Ecole catholique l'Enfant-Jesus in Dryden, Ont., brightly illustrates seven of the leadership qualities staff are hoping to instill in the students. (Cathy Alex/CBC )

Trottier's mother was an anglophone and spoke with her only in English, while her father was francophone and spoke with her only in French.

She considers herself bilingual because she is equally comfortable in both languages, a gift she is hoping to give her students.

"It's such a part of my identity and the fact that I can share my passion for language and culture with my students and get them just as excited about speaking French, and the fact it is such an asset is a wonderful experience," said Trottier.

The front lobby of Ecole catholique l'Enfant-Jesus in Dryden, Ont., has a display case illustrating the school's history, and the achievements of its students. (Cathy Alex/CBC )

Enrolment at the French school, which was once Barclay Hall School, has remained fairly steady in recent years, despite the economic downturn in Dryden, said Trottier.

But they would like to see the number of students increase.

"We're really trying to bring an awareness that our school is here, we do exist, we're not a figment of your imagination and we're a wonderful little community."

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