Ocoee High teacher hosts French exchange student

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  • | 9:50 a.m. September 30, 2014
  • West Orange Times & Observer
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OCOEE — For this school year only, students in the French 1 class at Ocoee High School have a teacher’s assistant: their newest classmate.

Joris Bermude, 15, has joined the 10th-grade class for the 2014-15 academic year through the Aspect Foundation, a non-profit organization that specializes in international study-abroad programs for students 15-18 years old. He hails from Lyon, France, an eastern city between Paris and Marseille in the Alpine region.

His first week in Florida proved to be an adjustment period, with some uncomfortable moments, such as the attention he received during icebreakers. Since then, life has been normal and enjoyable. So far, the major difference he has noticed has been between his school in Lyon and Ocoee High.

“The school system is very different: In France, we have school all day,” Bermude said. “We don’t have the activities like football at school. We need to do them outside school. To me, it’s better that you can do what you like after school. And we don’t pick subjects in France. We just take what we have to.”

Bermude arrived Aug. 11 and began practicing with the football team two days later. He will stay in Ocoee until the end of the school year. Patricia DeNoon, a ninth-grade science teacher at Ocoee High, applied to the Aspect Foundation’s program to host Bermude.

“As a host parent, I went online and requested someone from his area, a boy,” DeNoon said. “There were only five or six on the list. I wanted someone close to my son Mason’s age, 14, so his profile stood out to me from the get-go — I knew he was the one I wanted.”

DeNoon said Bermude had received a full scholarship for his abroad program — one of only a few in his area — and knew English well before his arrival. 

“It’s my first year teaching high school; it’s my son’s first year in high school; and to have another high-schooler, it’s just a lot of new things in general,” DeNoon said. “It’s keeping us busy. With him on the JV football team and my son in marching band and ROTC, there’s a lot of chauffeuring.”

Football is Bermude’s favorite sport. He played running back in France before joining Ocoee’s team as a free safety, which he enjoys most when playing in coverage.

He also enjoys hanging out with friends, playing Madden, watching TV and, shockingly, attending his French and Spanish classes.

“He answers all the questions in Spanish class,” said Jeffie Jones, one of Bermude’s teammates.

DeNoon said Bermude was receiving all A’s and B’s as a bright, dedicated student. After practice, the only task he performs before his homework is a shower.

“He feels as though he’s (placed) a year behind, based on how education is structured in France,” she said. “He’s taking honors classes; he had debate at the beginning of the year, not realizing that wasn’t quite a good choice for someone who’s not a native speaker. So, he switched from debate into French.”

DeNoon hopes to take Bermude boating in the near future, as well as to Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando. She also had him join the family in a volunteering venture during his first week.

“He’s very respectful,” DeNoon said. “He helps out when I ask. He is in charge of mowing the back lawn. He takes care of his bedroom, bathroom and dishes, like any other typical teenager. Sometimes, I have to harp on him a bit to get things done — I’ve definitely seen him get more relaxed.”

Also like most teenagers, Bermude likes to use a tablet during his downtime at home, to communicate with friends in France. He said nothing specific about life at home had changed from his life at home in Lyon.

“Wherever you go, it will be different at your home,” he said. “Everything is different in every different home and every different house.”

Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected]


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