In a super-fast changing world, some things stay the same (thank goodness!)

on October 29 | in Academic Life | by Guest Authors | with 10 Comments

Gisele Berard-Poggio, the longest-serving language instructor at Les Roches School of International Hotel Management, shares some of her favourite things about the school.

Les Roches International School of Hotel Management Longest serving language instructor(2) So, I have a little secret.  Les Roches is not the only one celebrating their 60th birthday this year.  I also turn 60, 32 of which I’ve spent at Les Roches.

Yes, I am proud to say that I am the longest serving member of staff.  Some people might wonder why anyone would want to stay in one place all this time, and in this article I wanted to reflect on some of the reasons.

Coincidentally, the things I love most are the things that haven’t changed during the 32 years that I’ve been here, and that – in a world where everything is instant and has a lifespan of a mayfly – really is something worth celebrating.

   1. Connection

Les Roches is all about connection.

Obviously you are in touch with students all the time because you teach them. But also, once they leave, they stay in touch.  The amount of Christmas cards I get is amazing.

I take such pleasure in seeing former students coming back after 10 or 15 years with their wives or husbands and their children, and in seeing how proud they are to show them around the school.

Les Roches is in the Guinness Book for something. You think it’s the largest number of students in a swimming pool, right?  Yes, but not only. It’s registered as the smallest village in the world with the greatest number of nationalities. When I think of this, it amazes me.

Every day, little Bluche, up in the Swiss Alps, is connected to the whole world. Everyday, someone is talking about Bluche. To their mum in India, their cousin in China, their grandmother in the USA. We are connected 24 hours a day to the entire world.  That’s amazing.

You know, a few semesters ago, I was teaching a Chinese student. Her phone accidentally went off in class. Now, normally students are not allowed their phones on in class, and she was very embarrassed and said ‘sorry, sorry. Oh no! It’s my mother’. And I said, ‘come on, if it’s your mother, you have to answer’. And she was about to go out of the class and I said, ‘it’s fine – you can speak to her here.’ Anyway.  We all ended up greeting her mother: ‘1,2,3… ‘bonjour!’ It’s amazing. Her mother – there on the other side of the world in Shanghai province, connected to students in an Alpine village in Switzerland.

   2. Les Roches is about freedom and creativity

Freedom keeps you young. Our management trusts us and has confidence in us. You come to work in the morning and you know you have a certain freedom. Freedom leads you to creativity. You can put that into new ideas. You are always having new ideas and the freedom to test new ideas out with the students.

3. Peace

Les Roches is a very peaceful, no stress place. When you consider so many different communities, the religious communities here, etc. this is amazing. There are no problems. There is no ‘clan’. Everyone really integrates, it’s really very calm. What makes it this way? We never say ‘don’t talk about this or that’. I don’t know the answer to that question, but I know that the peaceful environment really does help to keep me feeling positive.

4. Family environment

Since I have been here, there has always been a great family atmosphere.  When I started, sure, the numbers were fewer. I had around 10 in my class and there were around 100 students in total. But, even though Les Roches is huge now, we have managed to keep that family ambiance somehow. Not as intense, true, but it is there. And if you want a good relationship with your students, you can have it. They come to you and ask what you did at the weekend. It’s not anonymous, our students are not just a number. They are people. Individuals who we like and who we can get to know.


Les Roches International School of Hotel Management Longest serving language instructorSo, there’s so much to celebrate in being 60. Life, young spirit and regeneration.  If you want to share your favourite things about Les Roches with me, we can have a coffee at my favourite place: on the terrace with a view of the mountains.

I should be here for a while longer and will stay long after retirement if they are willing to keep me – that’s how much I love it.

Alternatively, with my fabulous connections with alumni around the world, I might just be going on the world’s best ever retirement tour.

It’s a tough call!

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10 Responses

  1. Richard Foo Yin Fah says:

    Thank you for being my teacher . I am 54 now. Gosh it’s been a long time . I was in Bluche 1981 to1983 winter.
    Its nice to know you’re doing well

    Richard Foo

    • Berard says:

      Hi Richard!
      Yes it’s been a long time but we are still young and passionate in Les Roches!!!
      Bonne journée
      Gisèle Bérard

  2. Julie Hodgson says:

    Interesting and inspirational article. It’s a pleasure to be your colleague, Gisèle.

  3. Lee May Lee says:

    Dearest Gisèle,
    You are one of my favorite teacher from 1981 to 1984, thought I’d never meet you again
    Toujours aussi dynamique, chaleureux en gardant le sourire inoubliable. Je crois rien n’arrive au hasard et merci beaucoup d’avoir croisé ma route encore une fois..

    Un grand bonjour à Lee

    Bien cordialement
    May Lee

    • Lee May Lee says:

      Dearest Gisèle,
      Toutes mes excuse pour une erreur de frappe, c’est un grand bonjour pour May
      Bien cordialement
      May Lee

  4. jyoti gurung says:

    Wow, Ms. Poggio taught us French between 1985-87.

    Jyoti Gurung (India)(
    Winter 1985-87

  5. Gisèle Bėrard says:

    Merci beaucoup pour ce joli message. C’est vrai rien n’arrive au hasard…
    Mais vous semblez très bien parler français,bravo
    Avec toutes mes amitiés

  6. Gisèle Bėrard says:

    Hello from Bluche!
    Comment ça va Jyoti?!
    Bon week end!

  7. Kitty says:

    Sadly Mr. Richard Foo Yin Fah passed away on the 6th of January 2015 as a result of a heart failure. His cremation is on the 10th of January 2015 (Saturday) Nirvana Sungai Besi at 10am.

    • Les Roches says:

      Dear Kitty,
      We are deeply affected by these sad news. Our condolences to Richard’s family and friends. Rest in peace.

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