The Shine’s On The French American School of Tampa Bay

Posted On 04/09/2018 by St. Pete Chamber
The French American School of Tampa Bay (FASTB) may be opening its doors for the first time this Fall in St. Petersburg, but FASTB brings a long track record of success to our community. In 2002, the Founders, Elizabeth and Willy LeBihan, started L’Ecole Française du Maine (The French School of Maine), and it is thriving in its 17th year, putting into practice what many studies have shown: the optimal cognitive window for language learning is from birth to age 12; therefore, for young children in a language immersion setting, becoming bilingual is virtually effortless.

For many years, Elizabeth and Willy were regular visitors to St. Petersburg and eventually became homeowners here. They came to appreciate St. Pete’s cultural diversity, central location and it’s growing and welcoming business environment, and, recognizing the need for bilingual education in this region, they decided to create a school that replicates the structure and curriculum offered in the Maine school and The French American School of Tampa Bay was born.

Elizabeth grew up in Maine, and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from the University of Maine at Farmington. While in college, she spent a year studying in Ireland, where she met Willy, who was a visiting geology scholar from his native France. They married and settled in Maine, both embarking on careers in education. When the time came grow their family, their bilingual abilities fostered an environment in which their children naturally spoke both French and English, and this sparked the idea of creating a French Immersion school for Maine children – L’Ecole Française du Maine. The French American School of Tampa Bay will offer the same successful approach and serve as the only school of its kind in this region.

The French American School of Tampa Bay provides a unique offering to students who speak a single language as well as students who speak multiple languages – a multicultural educational experience through French immersion from Early Childhood (Pre-K) through grade 12, instilling a constant curiosity toward foreign languages and the diverse cultures of the world. This multicultural approach at FASTB provides students the opportunity to benefit from French and American education systems, while exposing students to both cultures, enhancing their learning experience.

All Pre-K, kindergarten and first grade classes are taught entirely in French with students first hearing, then speaking and eventually reading and writing French. English is added in second grade and the foundation is built for a true bilingual education. The school’s vision is centered upon the fascinating relationship between music and art education and the immersion process of learning a second language. Though the national trend is to reduce these components of education, FASTB believes that a strong music and art curriculum lays the foundation for strong mathematical and scientific intelligence. All grade levels are immersed in music and art programs, including Music Theory, the Choral Program and an opportunity for private Suzuki instrumental lessons.

At FASTB, they believe that it is through play, actions and the search for independence that each child discovers his/her unique path to learning and obtains the necessary tools for development. Children are encouraged to express themselves freely in French and through various art forms, helping them boost their confidence and their knowledge. It’s through this commitment to language and culture that they’re able to provide a diverse, mind-opening educational experience in an atmosphere of understanding and discovery.

The FASTB Groundbreaking Ceremony is May 23rd at 2100 62nd Avenue North and Opening Day is coming up this September – and they are accepting applications now! The early grades are open to all students, both monolingual and bilingual, so parents are encouraged to contact admission@fastb.org or connect with them here.