Madame Monye inspires passion for French among students


“Students have to be passionate and everything will be a breeze,” Madame Monye said.

At ten years old, Theresa Monye knew she wanted to be a French teacher. Today, she is the sole French teacher at Grady High School. For the past eleven years, her passion has inspired students to learn French the way it is spoken 6,020 miles at her childhood home.

Monye’s hometown is in Jos, Nigeria. Her uncle is the king there, making Monye, her mother and her sisters princesses. She did not get any special treatment, but her Uncle had the final say on all important decisions in Jos.

She grew up speaking three different languages: English, Hausa and Berom. When she entered middle school and was introduced to French for the first time, she thought it was the most beautiful language she had ever heard.

“I thought, I am going to learn this thing, and teach it to other people,” Monye said. “From day one, I can’t believe it, and I’m still a French teacher.”

By the time Monye graduated middle school, she was ecstatic about leaving her hometown to attend boarding school in France. Four of her nine siblings had already left for boarding school, and they returned home each break with exciting stories.

“[Boarding school] was like Hogwarts, except for the brooms flying and everything,” Monye said. “When I saw Harry Potter for the first time, I thought my secret was revealed. I was like, ‘oh my gosh, that’s my life!’”

Monye “never ever ever ever ever” got homesick at boarding school. She made friends from all over the world, many of whom she is still in touch with today. She also discovered her talent for running track.

“I saw people running on the track and I was like ‘I think I can run faster than these kids,’ so I asked the principal, ‘can I run with them?’ and she looked at me like ‘get away from me,’” Monye said. “When they blew the whistle, I just got in there and I came in first.”

After the race, her principal apologized and asked her to join the track team. Monye went on to win two state championships, and then coached track at Grady for several years.

Boarding school is also where Madame Monye met her husband. After he got a job offer in America, they moved from Northern France to Atlanta. The hardest adjustment for Monye was not the cultural differences, but the heat.

“This is the hottest place I’ve ever lived my whole life,” Monye said.

Each year, Monye encourages her students to go on a foreign exchange trip to Toulouse, France. Atlanta Public Schools covers most of the cost, and Monye emphasizes how cultural immersion is the best way to learn a new language.

“It’s easier to learn a language when you hear it,” Monye said. “If you go to France now and hear people speak it in a small town, you will learn French. You’re surrounded by the language, and it will come to you.”  

Several Grady students went on the Toulouse trip in March. They lived with a host family for three weeks, going to French school for one week and working at an internship for the other two.

“I made so many amazing memories and I feel like my French has improved a lot. I also loved my host family,” said junior Jolie Nelson.

This year, Nelson is taking A.P. French. She says that Monye’s class can be challenging, but she enjoys the class and is excited to about becoming fluent in French.

Apart from bringing her passion for the language to French class, Monye also entertains students with stories from her childhood. She tells one story about how she can no longer eat potatoes after growing up with a father who owned a potato farm.

“My favorite part of her class is her stories, and she’s always smiling and positive,” said sophomore Noa Deseda.