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Learning more about Madame and her beloved French classroom

Madame Alexia Gino-Saliba works with a student during class. Photo taken by Andrew Kalitka / Photo II

For the past 14 years, the French classes at Gonzaga have been taught by Madame Alexia Gino-Saliba. Her classroom, located in the language department of Cantwell, is decorated with items such as a Mbappe jersey, miniature Eiffel towers and a map of France that will let anyone who walks in know they are now in French-speaking territory. Along with being one of the most known teachers here at Gonzaga, Madame is also one of the most loved, as her enthusiasm and care for her students make anyone who takes her class feel like they are in a place they can be themselves. 

Growing up in the south of France, Madame grew up in a village near a Mediterranean beach, where she says the weather is so nice, one can go visit the beach all year long. She is a self-described “public school product” and came to the United States as an exchange student with a scholarship at William and Mary in 1990. At William and Mary, Madame would meet her husband. Before Gonzaga, Madame already had experience in the field of teaching and education. 

I started teaching in Scotland as a teaching assistant in 1991; then in 1992, I was a TA at LSU; afterward, I came to D.C. and was a TA at Catholic U. while I was getting my master’s. I was a lecturer at American U. and Howard University for a few years. I worked at St Anselm’s Abbey school for four years, raised my kids for seven years and finally I started at Gonzaga 14 years ago,” she stated. 

Being here for 14 years means Madame has seen how our Gonzaga community has evolved over an extended period of time. When asked about how the Gonzaga community has changed since she arrived here, Madame described the environment as feeling mostly the same. 

“It feels the same overall; our community is one that is there when one of us needs help,” she stated. 

Anyone who knows Madame or has taken her class understands she is always there to talk about anything— to be a source of guidance and support for those who need it. 

“I have taken Madame’s class for all four years I have been at this school; she has been one of my mentors and someone I can talk to about anything,” said Madan Marlais, senior.  

However, openness and acceptance are just a couple of areas where Madame believes our community still has room to grow. 

“We still have some issues with racial and gender issues— homophobia, misogyny and racial slurs, more than I would like,” she stated. 

Despite these issues still existing at school, Madame believes the community has “improved a bit on those same fronts.”

 “We talk more about masculine emotions, and that is healthier for all our students. We don’t hear such things as ‘failure is not an option’ thankfully. Everyone learns by failing, and it is a normal learning process,” she stated.  

The openness of her classroom greatly embodies these positive changes and is something Madam strives for. 

I teach acceptance of differences, all differences in general… How hard is it to accept people for who they are and not who we want them to be?” she asked. 

Those words are something to live by, as we encounter people different from ourselves every day. Madame even praises the newer Gonzaga generations. 

On the other hand, I think that students worked more and complained less 14 years ago to be honest,” she stated. 

 Of all the values held in the Gonzaga community, Madame most firmly believes in the idea of building men, and people for others. She described herself as “attached” to the men for others’ image. 

“Men and women for others really,” she stated. 

Madame strongly believes any person who enters the Gonzaga community agrees to be a person for others, no matter what. To Madame, the highest value of all is clear.

“To love unconditionally,” she stated. 

Madame’s classroom embodies the Gonzaga community by embracing the slogan “all are welcome.” Anyone who steps inside her classroom will have a voice. Madame makes people comfortable to agree and disagree. 

“All are represented, and the door is always open to everyone,” she stated.

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