Foreign languages instructor Anne-Marie Jenks plans to retire at the end of the 2012-2013 school year, putting away her lesson plans for good after 45 years of teaching at the School. During her tenure, Jenks worked under three Heads of School—Phil Perkins, Bob Chumbook and Barbara Wagner—and even taught Director of Upper School and Assistant Head of School Laura Hotchkiss ’86 when Hotchkiss was a student. Jenks also started an annual mural tradition in which AP French students paint the walls of her classroom with French icons ranging from Madeline to from Jean de la Fontaine’s poem, “Le Corbeau et le Renard.”
Jenks majored in English and received a Diploma d’Etudes Superieures and a Licence-es-Lettres (a Bachelor of Arts degree in Letters, Arts and Sciences) from the University of Bordeaux in France in 1967. She then moved to La Jolla where, as a UC San Diego teaching assistant, she engaged in graduate work, specializing in linguistics.
“When I took the job [at UCSD], I’d never been in the US before,” Jenks said. “I didn’t know what to expect—back then, there weren’t many films in France that showed American life.”
A few months later, Jenks’ husband, Steve, introduced her to Marlborough.
“Steve lived on Muirfield Road in Hancock Park, and his father played tennis with Phil [Perkins], who was the Head of School,” Jenks said. “I wasn’t looking for a job, but he wanted me to check out the School.”
Jenks toured the School with Perkins and subsequently applied for a job once she discovered that Marlborough’s French instructor was retiring.
“I was attracted to teaching, because there weren’t a lot of openings or professions for women then… so, I guess you could say I fell into it,” she said. “It’s funny… if I stayed in France, I would’ve taught English.”
In the fall of 1968, Jenks began teaching French I and II, and two years after she arrived she took over the AP French Literature class, which she taught until the College Board eliminated the exam in 2011.
Emphasizing the use of French language for active communication in formal and informal situations, Jenks said she addresses issues such as “la famille et la communauté,” (family and community) “les défis mondiaux,” (global challenges) and “la science et la technologie” (science and technology) in her classes.
“I’ve always valued that no one told me what to do in my classroom, as long as I was doing my job,” Jenks said. “The trust and freedom [at this School] is amazing.”
Foreign Languages Department Head Leigh Hansen, who has worked with Jenks for the past 31 years, characterizes Jenks’ teaching style as “precise yet pleasurable.”
“I’ve sat in on a number of her classes. [Jenks] wants students to be accurate but also wants them to have fun and enjoy knowing that they can speak French and communicate well,” Hansen said.
Sonia ’14, who took AP French Language & Culture as a sophomore, recounted Jenks’ “tough love.”
“Her strictness in the classroom in terms of not allowing us to get by talking in English really helped me become comfortable and confident,” Gonzalez said.
Jenks also said that she appreciates how Marlborough is a “safe place for conversation.”
“[Marlborough] feels comfortable to me… like a good support system,” Jenks said. “I remember when my mother passed away in ’94, many students went out of their way to say they were sorry.”
When reflecting upon all her years at the School, Jenks said that what she finds most remarkable is how the culture of the School has fundamentally shifted from a “low-stress” environment to a “college admissions-driven,” learning atmosphere.
“Back then, [education] was less about getting into a good college, although it was important. It was less competitive,” Jenks said. “I remember there were quite a few students who didn’t excel academically but were from the Hancock Park crowd.”
Jenks also noted that the diversity of the student body has increased, and that more students nowadays elect to study Spanish rather than French.
After 45 years of teaching at the School and witnessing its evolution, Jenks said that she cherishes reconnecting with Alumnae.
“I love seeing old students of mine, to hear what they’re doing now,” Jenks said. “Really, most of the friends that I have are related to Marlborough, because they are either former students, or past or present teachers.”
Hansen said she, too, values her enduring friendship with Jenks.
“It was such a pleasure working with her,” Hansen said. “She’s the type of person that has a great sense of humor but is always ready to help. I’ll miss [Jenks] next year.”