The Student News Site of Malvern Preparatory School

Friar's Lantern

The Student News Site of Malvern Preparatory School

Friar's Lantern

The Student News Site of Malvern Preparatory School

Friar's Lantern

Say “Au revoir” to French, and “Nǐ hǎo” to Chinese

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Mr. Al Tomaszewski offers perspective on a long career of teaching French and Spanish and upcoming changes to his department

Mr. Tomaszewski / C. Bunn
Mr. Tomaszewski / C. Bunn

As part of giving students a diverse education, the language program here at Malvern has allowed students to pursue either Spanish, Latin, or French.  With the upcoming 2014-2015 school year, the language program will experience some changes, including the retirement of two faculty members and the curricular addition of Mandarin Chinese.

Two French teachers, Mr. Al Tomaszewksi and Mr. Fran Kenny will retire at the end of the spring 2014 semester.  These two teachers have been important figures in the French language program at Malvern for a significant amount of time. Mr. Tomaszewki recently spoke with the BFC about his time at Malvern and his love of languages.

CB: What did you do before Malvern?

AT: I came to Malvern 30 years ago after having completed 8 years of teaching at Valley Forge Military Academy. Before that, I went to La Salle College in Philadelphia. After graduating, I was a teaching assistant both at the University of Arkansas and at University of Pittsburgh for 5 years.

As I was involved in language when I went into military service at time of Vietnam War, I became a Russian linguist for the Air Force. After getting out of Air Force, I started teaching at Valley Forge Military Academy. I was there for 8 years. Then I came to Malvern in the September of 1984. My entire teaching career has been teaching mainly French and Spanish as a secondary language.

CB: Do you know any other languages other than French and Spanish?

AT: Well, as a member of the United States Air Force, I had a job in intelligence and they sent me to Syracuse University to learn Russian. I have studied other languages. I have studied Italian, Romanian, Russian (of course), Latin, German. My entire career has been involved in languages.

CB: So you could say that language has been a pretty big part of your life.

AT: I am a linguist. Yes.

CB: As of right now, what are some things you do outside of Malvern?

AT: Outside of Malvern, one of my favorite hobbies is reading historical fiction. Thats one of my avocations. I like history.  I like to do calligraphy as well, and for exercise I like to walk a lot.

CB: What is your fondest memory at Malvern?

AT: My fondest memory…well, it has to do with the entire course of 30 years [that I was here]. Getting students to understand that learning a language means that they can now communicate in another language. And it gives me a lot of pleasure when I see that they understood what they heard me say. It is a vehicle for them. They don’t have to depend upon English. They can converse with someone in either French or Spanish.

CB: Over your time at Malvern, what do you think were some of the biggest changes you saw?

AT: The biggest changes that I am really happy about…of course the campus has grown quite a bit. Of course, the physical campus has grown quite a bit. But the main thing that i really enjoyed seeing at Malvern is [the growth of] the arts department. A long time ago, when I first got here, the late Father Edson Wood would have said that when he started here, the arts department and the music department consisted of a piano, which was in his classroom. And now we have the Duffy Center. We have students who are allowed to pursue their interest in singing, in acting, in doing ceramics, photography, and we have some fantastic teachers to help them in that area. I really think that that was one of the biggest things that happened in my 30 years.

CB: Who were some of the biggest people who have influenced your life?

AT: Father Duffy. Mr. Stewart. Anyone who knew Father Duffy was aware of the man as a somebody who loved life. And who loved Malvern, and would do anything. He was dedicated to Malvern. He always had a smile on his face.  And Mr.Stewart for having hired me. [He] has been a friend and a mentor over the years.

CB: If this isn’t too personal of a question, why have you decided to retire? And what do you plan to do after?

AT: When one reaches 70 years old….I have decided to retire because I wanted to start a new phase of my life and do something different. I will continue taking academic courses. I will continue volunteering. I will also look into getting a part-time job outside of education.

CB: So you are looking to expand your knowledge?

AT: I want to continue expanding my knowledge, yes. I want to remain active. I’m not a big fan of sitting in the living room watching TV. I want to continue reading. I want to do a lot more reading than I have been able to do as a teacher because as a teacher, there is a lot of preparatory work that needs to be done for classes. With the extra time I will have in retirement, I want to do a tremendous amount of reading. And also, continuing to pursue Russian.

CB: You will be continuing to pursue Russian?

AT: Yes. It is going to be self-taught.

CB: What do you think about the 21st century education initiative at Malvern?

AT: I am a proponent of it. I have always felt that change is necessary if institutions or organizations does not seek to change, it becomes a dinosaur. And we know what happened to the dinosaurs. Change is necessary.

Another significant change in the language program is the removal of the French program. In its place will be a new program that is based off of Mandarin Chinese. Spoken by more than a billion people around the world, Mandarin Chinese has surpassed English as the most widely spoken language in the world.

Department leader and Spanish teacher, Señor Jim Kirchner offered some perspective about what these language changes entail.

CB: What is exactly happening in the french program?

JK:  We have known for several years now that the number of students enrolling in French is diminishing massively at Malvern Prep, other Inter-Ac schools, and across the nation. Unfortunately the decision was made about two years ago to phase French out and replace it with Mandarin Chinese. That’s the decision we are going ahead with. It makes me very sad to lose French, but I also understand the push for Chinese.

CB: How will this affect AP French?

JK: In September of 2015 there will be one section of French 3 and Honors French 3 that are meeting all at the same time, There will be another section of  French 4 / AP French.

CB: So they will be combining classes?

JK: Well its been done for decades. Again, the numbers… there might be 6 kids in French 3 and 3 kids in Honors French. We don’t have the faculty numbers to have two separate sections. There’s one section and that teacher distributes the work. And thats going to happen next year, and the following year. We’re talking 2015-2016, there will be one section of French 4/AP. And then the following year, French is gone. It’s bubbling its way up through the system.

CB: The last French will be taught in 2015-2016?

JK: Yes.

CB: Who will be teaching Chinese?

JK: We have a new teacher coming on board. Her name is Mrs. Michele DelGiorno. She will be our Chinese teacher.

CB: Personally, do you think this gradual elimination of French is a good idea?

JK: Personal opinion, it makes me extremely sad, although I don’t speak French. It is one of my great regrets that I did not begin French in high school, in college, or postgraduate. And I say that fully aware that I can begin studying it right now. I should have studied it as a student, and then as an undergrad. On one hand, it makes me very sad, but on the other hand I’m a realist and I understand that the numbers are decreasing. The school cannot support the program where there’s only 7-8 kinds in a class. Thats what was happening with French.

CB: How do you think students will feel about these changes?

JK: They also, I suspect, will feel the same as I, in that they will be sad to see it go, but (I hope that), they will understand the reality of it. The more traditional parents who themselves studied French will be upset, but that’s the future. The future’s with Mandarin Chinese.

With the retirement of two esteemed French-teaching faculty, as well as the gradual elimination of Malvern’s French program, some students question if these changes are for the best.

“It’s not fun. My brother, who is 2 years younger than me, really wanted to take French too. But he could not, because of these changes,” said Jaxon Hoey ‘16.

Most students, however, are also in full support of these changes. Says one student, “Chinese is an odd, but interesting language. And I think it will be something that Malvern will embrace.”

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    Beverly GordonJun 2, 2014 at 7:58 pm


    You are an amazing teacher, friend, and mentor. Thank you so much for all of our talks in St. Ritas and all of your advice. I never imagined that my “desk neighbor” would have been such a character and a railroad “foamer” too! Wow, I really do have the best luck ever!

    Seriously, you are an inspiration and a dear friend.

    Enjoy your retirement!