Monsieur LaPlanche brought the world to Brush High School’s students for over 29 years

Parlez Vous Francais?  If you answered Oui , and if you graduated from Brush High School in the past 29 years, then you certainly know one of the recent and most beloved retirees, Monsieur LaPlanche. 

Jean-David LaPlanche is a legend at Charles F. Brush High School, having taught French and four years of German there since 1987.  laplanche

Mr. LaPlanche was born in Paris to a French mother and then moved to the Cleveland area when he was eight years old.  He graduated from Mentor High School and then Heidelberg College with a Bachelor’s degree in French literature and German language. 

He went on to study at the University of Strasbourg in France and finished his master’s degree at Lake Erie College before beginning his teaching career in 1986 at the Andrews School.  Two years  later he was hired by the South Euclid-Lyndhurst School system to teach both French and German.  Before his first year of teaching had ended, Mr. LaPlanche had planned a summer field trip to France for his students, and since that initial trip, he has taken hundreds of students on 28 trips to France, Italy, Germany, Austria, England and Switzerland.  Believing that experiencing different cultures firsthand is an important part of foreign language study, Mr. LaPlanche has made it a priority to work with travel agencies, hotels, restaurants, and local citizens in those countries to give his students a wide variety of enriching experiences on these summer trips.   Many students will never forget what it was like to try escargot for the first time or talk to French shopkeepers or see the magnificent structures such as Notre Dame in Paris or the Coliseum in Rome.  

Using his creativity involved not only journeying to Europe, though.  According to Mr. LaPlanche, “Anything can be taught in an honest way,” so he developed French menus and set up tables with a “French atmosphere” in the Brush cafeteria, having students write skits to go along with the situation.  Those skits actually became the precursor for the most successful project the French students at Brush ever participated in—that of the Cannes Film Festival—Brush style!  According to Mr. LaPlanche, these very extravagant skits took hours of planning time, both for the students and for him because for every winning category of film—Best Film, Best French Accent (Male),  Best French Accent (Female), Best Marquee, etc.—he would create a trophy!  The kids had a great time, working at the library outside of school, writing scripts, filming scenes and then editing them, creating a memorable learning experience for all.

Many students who never spoke a word of French were also privileged to become acquainted with Mr. LaPlanche thanks to his generous volunteering of time as the Student Council adviser for 12 years, senior class adviser for 10, junior class adviser, for 4, and the adviser of the yearbook for one year.  In addition to those time-consuming activities, he served as chair for the foreign language department for 15 years during the time when Brush offered not only French and Spanish, but also German, Chinese and even Japanese.

Outside of the classroom, Mr. LaPlanche has gone to the dogs . . . literally! Since 1975, he has bred and shown dogs, both Salukes and Afghan hounds, professionally, and for the past 28 years, he has served as a judge at dog shows all over the world.  This second profession has brought great joy to Mr. LaPlanche and blessed him with friends in dozens of countries.  

Now, in retirement of sorts, this dynamic teacher can be found substituting at Brush when he is not flying to China or Norway or France, or any variety of countries to judge dog shows and meet up with new friends and colleagues.  When Jean-David was a student at Heidelberg, one of his favorite professors told him, “In order to be successful, you must strive to be the best,” and wherever you find Mr. LaPlanche,  you will find him living out that maxim.  Thank you, Mr. LaPlanche, for giving us your best and continuing to enrich our lives in the South Euclid-Lyndhurst Schools.  –Kathryn Falkenberg

“I believe that it will be the kids who grow up and learn in diverse communities who will solve the problems of inequality and injustice in the United States.”–Dr. Melanie (Ferrara) Finkenbinder, Valedictorian, Class of 2000

SEL teachers are always making a difference in the lives of their students, although they may not realize how much of a lasting difference they’re making every day. Melanie Kay (Ferrara) Finkenbinder, Valedictorian of the Class of 2000, spoke with us recently about what she’s been up to since graduation and how her  teachers and her time at South Euclid-Lyndhurst Schools influenced the person she has become.

Working now as a primary care physician at Lower Lights Christian Health Center in Columbus, Melanie serves the Latin American immigrant population. She is also a medical student educator and is pursuing a Master’s degree in Global Public Health. “The part of Columbus our clinic serves is a food desert. There are few grocery stores in the area and many of our patients are food insecure. One new initiative in our health center is the addition of a free ‘grocery store’ right in our building.” Melanie is devoted to improving the health of Columbus’s Latino population—making sure they have equal access to health care in spite of the poverty and discrimination she sees her patients face everyday.

After leaving Brush, Melanie attended Washington University in St. Louis and went on to medical school at The Ohio State University. Melanie is married to David, a structural engineer, and they have two sons: Paul (3) and Henry (1).

Melanie’s Spanish language classes at Brush have paid off, as did her semester abroad in Chile during college. She uses her foreign language skills every day as she speaks Spanish to her patients and to her children at home. In discussing her time at Brush, Melanie reflects on the classes and teachers that made a difference in her life and helped shape her future. “Ms. Doerder’s AP Biology class was hugely formative. It’s how I, and at least six of my classmates become interested in medical science, and decided to become physicians. melanie-finkenbinder-picture

The AP teachers and their hands-on approach influenced me to excel. Ms. Cassidy, Mr. Welsh, Mr. Mastrobuono, Mr. Nemecek, and Ms. Clemson helped me to become a leader and learn to work as a team member.” In addition to her AP classes, Melanie was very involved at Brush, serving on Student Congress, participating in the theater program, and being part of the softball, soccer, and swimming teams.

Melanie’s future goal is to move with her family to a developing country to help set up a health system from the ground up. This desire to help the underserved and level the playing field is common among many Brush graduates. Melanie feels that attending SEL Schools made a difference in her perspective about the world. “The more that we continue to segregate ourselves by skin color and religion, the more we will continue to misunderstand each other.  I believe that it will be the kids who grow up and learn in diverse communities who will solve the problems of inequality and injustice in the United States.”