Former East teacher takes Camden students to Paris

Ali Koenig (‘20), Eastside Staff

On April 14, at the beginning of spring break, a group of French students from Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden, along with their teacher, Mrs. Paula Saillard, and a few chaperones, embarked on the trip of a lifetime; they were on their way to Paris.

Saillard, a former French teacher at Cherry Hill East, had been fundraising for the trip since December of 2016 and planning for it since last April. In mid-March, just five weeks prior to the trip, Saillard had finally raised enough money for the trip, and her students were ecstatic.

Staying in a small castle called the Château de Poigny on the outskirts of Paris, the seven days that the 21 Camden students, mostly juniors and seniors, spent in France were jam-packed. Just some of the many sights they saw include the Louvre, the Champs-Elysées, the Arc de Triomphe, the Montmartre and the Eiffel Tower, which the students were most excited to visit.

“That was the most-awaited event,” said Saillard. “They had been looking forward to going to the top of the tower for months, and it definitely lived up to their expectations.”

Though Saillard took many trips to Paris when she taught French at East, this one was different, she said. Not only was this the first trip for which she had ever had to fundraise, it was much more work. Since the trips she took from East were part of the exchange program, the students would stay with their host families. The Woodrow Wilson students, however, all stayed together in the small castle they had rented.

“That was a big difference,” said Saillard. “The chaperones and I were up very long hours, making food for the next day… I would say it was a lot more work [than the East trips].”

If Saillard has the opportunity to take Woodrow Wilson French students on a similar trip to this one in the future, she will make a few changes to the trip, she said. Though she was very happy with how this trip turned out, she hopes to stay closer to the city next time, as the commute from the castle into Paris was very long, especially when they were out at night.

Saillard says that Woodrow Wilson students are on cloud nine.

“I think for them, it was a little bit surreal,” said Saillard, recalling the initial reactions of her students upon entering Paris. “It kind of hit home, and they were really excited.”

Saillard said that her students were very appreciative of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Though her students enjoyed going to the top of the Eiffel Tower the most, Saillard said that her favorite part of the trip was watching her students take in the City of Lights.

“One of my students in particular had been waiting for this for months, and he was just grinning the whole time,” she said. “They’ve had an experience that many of the people they know have never, ever had. I keep telling them that it’s a really big deal.”