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Edinburgh’s French connection

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Culture shock was a big part of Deborah Hightshue’s first year at Edinburgh Community High School: She was making the transition from teaching university students in France to teaching American middle and high school students.

More than 40 years ago, Hightshue was in Europe, teaching through a fellowship she received from the University of Illinois, when she started applying for jobs back in America. She’d heard that jobs for teachers were scarce and that she needed to apply while she was still overseas, meaning she knew almost nothing about the school districts she was applying to.

The first application Hightshue mailed was to Edinburgh. The school district quickly hired her, and she’s spent the past 41 years teaching French and English at the high school. Hightshue also coached the high school’s English Academic Super Bowl Team, which won the championship in its division at this year’s state competition.

Hightshue, who went to Pike High School on the northwest side of Indianapolis, was interested in becoming a teacher largely because of her grandmother and godmother. Both were teachers, and her godmother started sending her books to read while she was young.

“It was just kind of a teacher-student role with both women that I caught on to,” Hightshue said.

Hightshue earned a bachelor’s degree from Ball State University and then went to graduate school at the University of Illinois, which is where she received the fellowship that sent her to the University of Nancy for a year.

In her first year at Edinburgh in 1973, her biggest challenge was transitioning from working with college students to trying to convince teens why they needed to learn the English and French lessons she was teaching.

“They just didn’t understand immediately that what they were going to learn was important,” she said.

Hightshue started coaching Edinburgh students in the Academic Super Bowl about 28 years ago. She initially coached the high school’s English, fine arts and social studies teams; but after the high school hired more teachers, she stopped coaching the fine arts and social studies teams.

She didn’t have a goal for the team during this year’s season. But team members, who placed fourth at the state competition last year and didn’t receive medals, wanted to win medals this year, she said.

The team spent the school year reading and rereading material they knew they could be asked throughout the season, and their first-place finish was the first state championship Hightshue was a part of.

“That was wonderful,” she said. “I was shocked — pleasantly shocked.”

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