Monday, March 23, 2009

Knighthood Award of Palmes Académiques to Elizabeth and Willy LeBihan

In recognition of their dedication to the promotion of the French Culture and French Education in Maine, the Consulate of France recommended Elizabeth and Willy LeBihan for the prestigious award of Chevalier des Palmes Académiques, an order of Knighthood, founded in 1808 by Napoleon Bonaparte.
Xavier Darcos, French Minister of Education, awarded Elizabeth and Willy LeBihan the prestigious award of Chevalier dans l’ordre des Palmes Académiques.

L’Ordre des Palmes Académiques (Order of Academic Palms) is an Order of Chivalry of France bestowed upon academics and educators. The order was originally created by Napoleon to honor eminent members of the University of Paris. It was re-established on October 4, 1955 by President René Coty and is one of the world's oldest civil awards.

Originally, the Palmes Académiques were only given to teachers or professors. In 1866, the scope of the award was widened to include major contributions to French national education made by anyone including foreigners. It was also made available to French nationals outside of France who had made major contributions to the expansion of French culture in the rest of the world.

Founded by Elizabeth and Willy LeBihan in May 2002, L’Ecole Française du Maine, The French School of Maine, is a non-profit organization providing a bilingual education for children from preschool through middle school. The curriculum of the school follows the directives of the French Ministry of Education and the Maine Learning Results. Recognizing the numbers of Franco-American citizens concentrated in this area, the founders hoped to create a French learning experience for the children of people who grew up with French-speaking parents and grandparents, thereby passing that cultural heritage to the younger, English-speaking generations.

Originally located in Winthrop, Maine, the school relocated to Freeport in the fall of 2004 to accommodate the high demand for bilingual education. Today, as in 2002, the rigorous academic program contributes to the renaissance of the French language in Maine, and to the development of students into ambassadors of acceptance and independence.

An award ceremony is scheduled for June 18, 2009 at L'Ecole Française du Maine in South Freeport, at which time the Consul General of France, François Gauthier, will present the medals.