Young Professional 2016: Elizabeth Porter
Elizabeth Porter is the owner/teacher of Bon Voyage French School
How long have you lived in the Tri-Cities? 3 ½ years
Family: Yes, I live here with my husband David, my two sons, and my yorkie Henri. My children are 3 and 8 years old and my older son has autism spectrum disorder, or ASD.
Company background: Bon Voyage French School is a small, online French program that offers a variety of French language courses and educational travel to France. BVFS is dedicated to making French accessible to everyone with a teaching method that accommodates all special needs and learning styles. Educational trips are unique and designed for the specific group traveling; they are always family- and special needs-friendly.
Tell us about your job/career and how you got into it: I have been a teacher for almost 15 years. I have a passion and a love of the French language and culture. I spent most of my career teaching in the public school system but then I had my older son and decided to stay home with him. When he was diagnosed with ASD and then another very rare medical condition, I decided that I needed to do something that would not only make me available to my children but also include them. I started by designing my courses and trips to fit the needs of my own children and then expanded that idea to other families. I also felt called to start BVFS because I feel like I have been called to spread love, acceptance and cultural understanding. I feel that the more I can help others understand each other, the more understanding others can spread in the world. I also want to offer the same opportunities to everyone, and I want people with special needs and ASD to feel included and that they have the same opportunities as everyone else.
Business philosophy: My goal is to share my absolute passion for all things French with anyone I can. It is so important to me to spread love and cultural understanding, to bring people together. I accept everyone into my program and design my courses and trips to accommodate each individual. I am very proud of my culture and my beautiful French language and want everyone to have the chance to experience it the way I see it.
Life philosophy: I am a person who loves to learn about other people and cultures. Whenever I travel, I try to learn a little bit of the language and about the people who live in that country. I believe that all humans are beautiful, we all have the same heart, and we all need to feel love and acceptance. Being the mother of a special needs child, I want my child to have the same opportunities as every other person. I love people, all people, from all cultures.
Community involvement/community service: I offer a variety of French language and culture courses. I have partnered with the autism community to fully accommodate students with special needs. I am involved in Better Together Autism Social Group and Three Rivers Autism Outreach. I am involved in my son’s school (White Bluffs Elementary) and my church community (Christ the King).
Who were your mentors and what did they teach you? My greatest mentors are my mother and my grandfather. My mother because she is very strong, she taught me to never back down from what I want in life, to go for my goals. At the age of 59, she is working on her master’s degree. I greatly admire her. My grandfather was a teacher. He was one of the best teachers and one of the best people I have ever known. He is the person who inspired me to become a teacher. My grandfather was a Korean War veteran, a history major and an amazing man. He taught me so much about history and life and love.
Toughest business/career decision you had to make or obstacle you had to overcome? I think the biggest decision I had to make was the decision to start this venture with BVFS. It had been my dream for as long as I can remember to have my own French program. I am not a business person, I have an education degree, so my largest obstacle was just how to get started. Then, one day, I was presented with the opportunity to work with a program called Outschool and everything came together. The time was right, and I made the leap.
First job: My first job was teaching swimming lessons. Teaching swimming lessons gave me the foundation for how to teach a skill. It gave me my love of teaching and helped me understand how to accommodate different learning styles. It also helped me understand the foundation of fear and how to help people overcome fear.
What do you like most about what you do? There are so many things I love, it is hard to pick just one. I think the one enduring theme across everything I do is the spread of love, cultural understanding and acceptance of all people! That we are all different and we should respect and celebrate our differences! Wouldn’t the world be a boring place if we were all the same?
Least? I love my job! I would have to say that the hardest part is marketing myself. Since I am not a business person, the business side of it is challenging. But there is nothing I really dislike about my job. I am excited about my job every day!
Favorite book: “The Little Prince”
Favorite Tri-Cities Hangout: Bookwalter
Favorite way to spend the weekend: Relaxing with my family, going to the pool or on a bike ride. We like to go to Seattle and visit my family and visit the Museum of Flight (my 8-year-old is OBSESSED with airplanes).
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? I would love to turn my little French program into a full-time job once both of my children are in school. I would love to increase my once-a-year group trips to two to three times a year. I hope to expand my immersion programs and exchange programs as well.
What thing would people be most surprised to learn about you? In addition to loving all things French, I also love dinosaurs.
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