Loomis, Arlette

Sept. 20, 2002, midnight | By Kevin Fang | 21 years, 8 months ago

Battling Back

Name: Arlette Loomis
Department: Foreign Language
    Lycée Français - French Baccalaureate in science
    New York University – B.A., Romance langauges and literatures
    Yale University - Master of Philosophy, Romance languages and literatures
Year started at MBHS: 1985
Previous jobs:
    Professor at Queens College (NY)
    Professor at Mont Clair State College (NJ)
    Assistant Professor at Trinity College (DC)
    French immersion program teacher at Four Corners Elementary School
Hobbies: Tennis, the arts, watching movies, reading
In the halls of Blair, French teacher Arlette Loomis can often be lost in the rush of much taller teenagers. However, nothing can dwarf her life experiences. A refugee from Egypt, Loomis has had to overcome language barriers, and most recently, a battle with cancer.

In early 2002, a battle with breast cancer forced Loomis to leave her students and her teaching for a full semester. "It's a shock," she says stumbling over words. "I didn't feel sick at the time. It was a surprise."

Not only did Loomis undergo treatment for her cancer, but she also celebrated a momentous occasion in her life, her sixtieth birthday. "You're always in denial in getting old," she says, but now she has made the realization that "I am old, and I am sick."

Through this experience, Loomis now sees life through a different perspective. The cancer "made me want to enjoy and appreciate, and make more valuable, every moment in my life," she says. "This is what happens. You see what's important in life."

Besides learning of her mortality, Loomis discovered, during her time away from school, the degree to which she has affected her students. "I had so many students and their parents express their appreciation of my teaching - what I had done all these years," she says. "I really was so touched, so overwhelmed."

Several of her students also stunned Loomis with a surprise party during her leave of absence. "I came back [home] from work and there were about 15 students that made a party for me the day after prom, practically with no sleep," she describes elatedly. "That will be something I can never, never, never forget."

Still, sickness has not been the only thing Loomis has had to overcome in her lifetime. Loomis and her family left Egypt as refugees during the Suez Canal crisis. Speaking hardly any English, Loomis attained a job at the housing office of New York University, through a woman she met on the boat to America. "That's what luck is," she says.

The demands of her job provided Loomis with benefits even beyond the development of her English skills. "I talked to the students, learning English that way," she says. "At the end of three years, I got a husband and an apartment," she adds with a chuckle.

After attaining a scholarship with the university and graduating magna cum laude, Loomis went on to obtain a master of philosophy at Yale University. Loomis then taught at the university level for eight years, and in a French immersion program for another eight.

In 1985, Loomis began teaching at Blair. However, Loomis did not start off as a French teacher. She says, "They said, 'You could teach general math or you can teach Spanish I'." She pauses. "So I took Spanish."

With little knowledge of the Spanish language, Loomis learned along with her students. "Teaching is the best way to learn something," she says.

In 1995, Loomis ended her stint teaching sections of Spanish, and taught only French. Today, she is fluent in Spanish, French, English and Arabic.

In the past sixty years, Loomis has come from being a seventeen year-old girl in America with nothing, to standing in front of a classroom, passing not only the knowledge of her passion for French language and literature to her students, but also a part of herself and her spirit. "I think she is an amazing person," says former student Louise Giam. "She's like a motherly type of person. Whether it's [discussing] art or liking stupid celebrities, she always has a smile to share, and a thoughtful comment."

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