Students say ‘merci’ to beloved teacher

Nicole Clifford, Staff Writer

Palm Beach Central’s French “maman” has been working her way into her students’ hearts for the last 21 years.  Ms. Morales, known for being a kind-hearted but firm instructor, has created a sense of family with a plethora of students because of her energetic and resilient personality.

This tri-lingual instructor didn’t always want to be a teacher.  In fact, her dream job was quite different from where she is now. Growing up, Morales wanted to work for the United Nations as an educational curriculum designer. During the recruitment process, she had gotten past her interview and was in the top five for the job but by the time they called her, she was experiencing a high risk pregnancy with her first child and had to turn down the job.

Shortly after, she found her calling in teaching because she thought it was important for students to know other languages. She’s taught both French and Spanish,  and although she was born in the Dominican Republic, she prefers to teach French because it’s more comfortable for her. She likes seeing her students interact, and she enjoys the exchanges she has with them. 

“My greatest personal achievements are my [students],” said Morales. “Around the end of the year, [a student] said ‘I’d like to say thank you because you’re the reason I’m here. I’m here because I liked your class. I came into school waiting for your class.’”

She’s also proud to have pursued her dreams of living and to achieve her goals. She always wanted to live in a foreign country by herself, she wanted to learn a new language and go through the change. 

Despite her successes in the classroom, Morales, the youngest of four siblings, has faced many obstacles throughout her life. She actually has a fear of failure that started when she was a child when her parents put pressure on all their children to succeed academically. When she was 17, she decided to study in France. She ended up getting accepted to Paris’ prestigious  Sorbonne University. It was a big change for her as she was no longer surrounded by her parents and siblings. Due to her parents expectations, however, she put a lot of pressure on herself. 

Many times I felt that I was not up to the task and that I would not achieve my goals but I was afraid of going back to my parents without having achieved what I had proposed and perhaps it was that fear that gave me the push to always continue forward,” Morales explained. “When you put really high expectations on yourself, sometimes you start being afraid that you’re never gonna do it.” 

When Morales graduated from the Sorbonne, she moved here where began to learn English.  Today, she can be found in room 5-215 teaching French I, Pre-AICE French II, and French II. A plethora of students have shown their appreciation for Morales and have actually taken French III in the past  just so they could have her again.

“Mrs. Morales is so sweet and loving and treats everyone like her children,” noted senior Michelle Qi.  “I really like her energy and her kind personality.  My favorite thing about her is her positive attitude because it really brightens her class and makes her class really entertaining and engaging!” 

To get her students excited about French culture and language, Morales hosts an annual “crêpe day.” It’s a day that her students bring toppings, and she brings batter to make the thin pancakes stuffed with sweets. In the past, students have brought jams, peanut butter, Nutella, and assorted fruit along with whipped cream and chocolate syrup to put on top. 

“My favorite memory in French is making crêpes,” said Qi. “It was really engaging and fun.” 

Her comforting personality and her ability to bond with her students is the reason why Morales is loved by so many of her students, and she has no plans on leaving the school anytime soon.