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Me and Mine…

Photos from cam march 07 113My name is Ellen Chew-Jolley and I was born in Worcestershire in the centre of England in the early sixties in a textile town, not dissimilar to Mulhouse, and moved to the South Coast to the county of Dorset when I was four. I spent the rest of my youth on the beach..and sometimes in the classroom too, where I continued my studies in the historic town of Canterbury doing a B.A. in French…(and German, a detail which would now be wise to forget). I came to Alsace as a ‘lectrice’ at the Lycée Montaigne in Mulhouse to work for the academic year in 1983-84 and realised the potential of this area in which to live and to work.

Like many young people, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do career-wise. My two sisters were  teachers at that time, and I dreamed of doing something more original…but was encouraged to try teaching English by my colleagues who said that I was made for that particular career. Anne Siegmann gave me my first job in the ‘Université Populaire’ in Mulhouse where I worked for 6 years teaching adults; the most gratifying professional experience I have ever had, and this has coloured my teaching experience ever since.

I also taught in kindergarten and in primary school in Strasbourg and in the collèges of the Sundgau, where I learnt how to teach youngsters the hard way, with no real coaching or theoretical help to fall back on. At 26 I went back to the University in Strasbourg to pass the sacrosanct ‘concours’ CAPES and Agrégation and after a year’s practical experience at the Lycée Lambert, I obtained a post at the Ecole de Chimie in Mulhouse…a complete mystery to one whose chemistry lessons at school had been conducted by a frustrated musician who played more Brahms on his viola than he ever taught us chemistry….however, I got a taste for teaching young adults and stayed there for 9 years, setting up an International programme which led to several exchanges totalling around 100 students going and coming abroad to the EU mainly.  After which I scaled the wall of the FLSH where I had been teaching for a few years as a ‘vacataire’ to join the English department which is (always has been) a kind of second home.

Far from being complacent about one’s job, it can be a means to take on new responsibilities and explore new fields. You only get out of it what you put in, sometimes more, but never less.

And now I am equally and more importantly the mother of 3 lovely, demanding, fascinating and impossibly wonderful young adults in their 20-30’s, and 1 equally lovely (and impossible) deaf 15 year old Golden retriever, Katy, plus a Belgian/German shepherd cross called Giulietta or Jules for short. I live in a large village on the edge the Sundgau, in a typically Germanic-style house, a bit “kolossal” but gives us all enough room to (not) get on each other’s nerves. I swim and walk regularly, thanks to my husband and my dogs, play a amateur kind of guitar (OK, I am a strummer, Tony is the real guitarist) and still hanker after playing the piano properly.

I also participate in a humanitarian program called Action Aid, sponsoring a young Senegalese girl and participating in the funding and setting up of a rural school in the very southernmost district of that country, a project dear to my heart. Since March this year, we have welcomed a young Ukranian mother and her 2 year old son who have had to leave their war-torn country at a moment’s notice which has been a very positive experience, learning more about a country and a people hitherto unknown to us. Like most academics, I am an obsessional reader of books,  fiction, biography, history, anything I can lay my hands on. My teaching career is slowly coming to an end, (I was born in the year that Kennedy was assassinated (??!!) but I do plan to outlive him…) hence the next 5 years or so are going to be that of “transmission” to those who come after me, younger colleagues, and those who will replace me; who knows, it might be you!

My interests apart from family life and dogs and music are interior design and architecture, especially that of the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods. I am an aspiring cook, though with my English background, I get a lot of laughs….I am also involved in our local Repair Café where we try and fight against programmed obsolescence in all its shapes and forms. I try and keep my interests up in art, music and travel as far as professional and social contrants permit, and I am happiest surrounded by friends and family, or discovering a new region of this fascinating country called France. Don’t knock it, it’s a great place to live. Even in Mulhouse. Especially in Mulhouse….