Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Emmanuel Escueta that

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Emmanuel Escueta that

Prime Minister’s award for lessons in French

Maple Ridge teacher Emmanuel Escueta developed Verbathon game.

Faced with a classroom of students who were determined not to learn anything, a Maple Ridge teacher created a now popular French grammar game.

Emmanuel Escueta has been recognized for that, and for the spirit of innovation that inspired it.

He is one of only two teachers in B.C., and just 10 across the country, to receive the Prime Minister’s Certificate of Excellence.

Escueta teaches second grade French immersion at Ecole Irvine Elementary School in Port Coquitlam, and is best known as the inventor of Verbathon, which teaches French grammar.

His career began in 1989, in front of a completely uninspired group of students in northern Manitoba.

Escueta was astounded at their negative attitudes toward education. He had been born in the Philippines, moved to Canada at the age of 16, and threw himself into his studies. He spoke Tagalog and a very formal brand of English learned at an all-boys Catholic school. French was exotic to him, and to learn it for free was a great opportunity. But a teacher essentially told him he would never be able to master it.

“I worked my tail off to learn it – I challenged myself,” he said.

He went on to do a double major in English and French at the University of Manitoba. To practise conversational French, he went to work as a waiter at the Franco-Manitoban Cultural Centre, with a French-English dictionary in his pocket.

So in his first year teaching middle school, he was stunned to meet with intransigence in the classroom.

“I had students who didn’t want to learn,” Escueta said. “I was so taken aback by the negative attitude these kids had about learning – and most of all French,” he added. “How do I engage them – how do I turn them around?”

Verbathon was the answer. It took the driest and most tedious part of learning French, and turned it into a game – one where kids are timed on how fast they can conjugate verbs.

It was a huge hit, and still is. Kids play in teams, and they practise on their own, and even get team T-shirts made up.

It is so popular that even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had taught it when he was a teacher in Vancouver. The two men passed a few words about Verbathon when Trudeau was giving Escueta his certificate of excellence in Ottawa earlier this month.

Trudeau even signed a Verbathon T-shirt for him after the ceremony.

“I couldn’t believe how approachable he was,” said Escueta.

He developed a kit so schools across the country can have Verbathons of their own. He runs a  country-wide Verbathon tournament, and the Canadian Parents for French run a tournament in his school district. He speaks at national conferences about the game, and it has been expanded to Spanish and German.

“It has grown to a point where it’s beyond what I would dream it to be.”

His nominators also noted that Escueta takes advantage of cross-cultural opportunities for learning, such as teaching children to sing a Christmas song in three languages, to play a traditional Filipino bamboo instrument and to dance a traditional Filipino dance.

He also mentors fellow teachers on second-language instruction and the use of technology to enhance learning.

In his presentation speech, Trudeau joked that he became prime minister so he could hand out the awards to teachers. He said great teachers understand that they are not answerable to the board that hired them, or the parents and community that support them.

“Great teachers are ultimately accountable to the society that will be peopled by the citizens they create every day in their classroom,” he said, calling it an “awesome responsibility and humbling opportunity.”

Escueta said Trudeau made receiving the award an even greater honour.

“It was very special, in that we are the first batch of teachers to receive the awards under the Trudeau government, and he shares a common bond.”

 

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Schools in Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows exposed to COVID-19

Davie Jones and Hammond elementary schools have confirmed cases

B.C. conservation officer Sgt. Todd Hunter said a black bear is believed to have killed local livestock. (THE NEWS/files)
Black bear believed to have killed miniature donkey in Maple Ridge

Trap set for predator that has been killing livestock near Webster’s Corners

Vanessa Barrett is competing to be the face of fitness for a health and bodybuilding magazine. (Vanessa Barrett/Special to the Maple Ridge News)
Ridge fitness champ aims to become face of magazine

Vanessa Barrett wants to add ‘Ms Fitness’ to her titles of entrepreneur and mom

A Nova Scotia court has overturned the conviction of a man with ties to Maple Ridge. (Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck)
Conviction thrown out for supposed leader of Maple Ridge cannabis smuggling conspiracy

A Nova Scotia appeals court found there wasn’t enough evidence and quashed a four-year sentence

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Most Read