December 27, 2017 at 5:11 pm

Alumni News | Virin Vedder ‘Knighted’ by France for Language Programming

Ohio University alum Dr. Virin Vedder ’94 was “knighted” by France in December for his work in developing French language programs in a Georgia school system.

Virin Vedder, portrait

Virin Vedder

Vedder earned two OHIO degrees, a B.S. in Geography and a B.A. in French from the College of Arts & Sciences, and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. His wife, Kristie Rozzo Vedder, also graduated from OHIO with honors and a B.A. and M.A. in French from the College of Arts & Sciences, as well as a B.S. in Education.

Virin Vedder’s parents are Dr. Karen Vedder ’68, ’70, and ’88, who earned a B.A. in English from the College of Arts & Sciences followed by a master’s and Ph.D. from the Patton College of Education, and Dr. Richard Vedder, Distinguished Professor of Economics Emeritus and an honorary alumnus recipient.

The French Ministry of Education awarded Vedder, who is the Gwinnett County Public Schools (Georgia) foreign language instructional specialist, with the Palmes Académiques (Order of Academic Palms) Silver Cross (Chevalier), says a GCPS news release:

The national order of the Republic of France recognizes distinguished academics and contributors in the fields of education and culture. The award was founded by Emperor Napoleon in 1805 and is bestowed upon French citizens or foreign nationals who make major contributions to the expansion of French language and culture.

Vedder’s work came to the attention of the French Consulate when its delegation visited Gwinnett’s French Dual Language Immersion classrooms at Trip Elementary and French classrooms at the middle and high school level.

Vedder says he is humbled by the award.

“This award reinforces the value of what I enjoy doing every day,” he says. “I’m honored that I can help expand knowledge of the French language and culture in my capacity. More importantly, this recognition spotlights the team members in our county, who work diligently each day to achieve these same goals.”

Vedder was among a group of GCPS teachers who piloted the first middle school Carnegie Unit French programs in the school district. He went on to open Trip Elementary School as an assistant principal, a role he filled when the school was selected to host the first GCPS French Dual Language Immersion program, which began with kindergarten in 2014. Those students are currently in third grade and are in their fourth year of the program.

Vedder says without the support of many people, including Dr. Jon Valentine, director of foreign language, the school district’s DLI program would not be successful.

“This honor reflects the value GCPS places on foreign language education,” Vedder says. “We are supported by parents who want their children to recognize, understand, and appreciate our global community and ever-shrinking world. We’re very grateful that the French Ministry of Education has chosen to spotlight the strength of our programs with this award.”

The decision to include French at Trip as part of the DLI program was based on Vedder’s French language proficiency and his ability to support this complex and innovative new program. As a French-speaking administrator, Vedder had the singular ability to interview and hire exemplary French-speaking teachers and to ensure that these teachers had the support they needed to successfully integrate French language and culture into daily instruction.

In 2015, Dr. Vedder transferred from the local school to the district level to provide additional support for world languages and DLI programs, first as an Instructional Coach, and then as an Instructional Specialist for Languages and Dual Language Immersion.

The foundation for his ideas, he said, began when he was at Ohio University.

“I was thankful and lucky to have fantastic French instructors and professors. The fact that now, 25 years later, I’m able to recall their names tells me that they impacted me in a way that I’m very grateful for today,” Vedder said. “That’s what’s enabled me to accept this award today. I’m thankful and grateful for the foundation they provided me so I can pay it forward and give the same opportunity now to other kids at a younger age.”

Vedder said students in the immersion program spend half their school days in English-language classes, then learn math, science and chosen language in that language. He said it’s a much more complete way, and at a much earlier age, than many students are able to learn foreign languages; it’s often not even an option until high school.

“The whole idea of this immersion, starting it in elementary, is you’re extending the length of time that you have exposure to the language, and the opportunity to get comprehensible input in the language,” Vedder said.

“Virin Vedder’s efforts to promote language and culture that he learned at Ohio University are another example of how Ohio University’s alumni are able to serve as change agents for the better in the world,” Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis said. “To have those efforts honored not only by his peers, but by the Republic of France, is truly outstanding.”

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