Our Laguna: Honoring a teacher the French way

Neither the stars above the French Consul General's home in Beverly Hills on Sept. 14 nor the candles that lighted the way to the patio shone more brightly than Odile Dewar's smile.

Dewar, who teaches French at Laguna Beach High School, was honored by Consul General David Martinon with the Insignia of the Palmes Academiques for her contributions to education.

She beamed the whole night long.

Most of the presentation was conducted in French, with asides in English for the benefit of Dewar's non-French-speaking friends who attended the ceremony.

"Odile has been at the residence before to observe the decorations of others, but today it is her turn and she really deserves it," Martinon said.

After pinning the insignia on Dewar's lapel, Martinon saluted her in the traditional manner, an air kiss on either side of her face.

"I am very lucky to be here tonight," said Dewar. "This is a symbol of people working for humanity through language."

She thanked Laguna Beach for adopting the French culture with typical American gusto.

School board member Betsy Jenkins, who could not attend the ceremony, wrote a glowing tribute to Dewar's contributions to the education of Laguna's students. Laguna Beach Visitors Bureau President and President of the Laguna Beach Sister Cities Assn. Karyn Philippsen read the tribute.

"To walk into Odile's classroom is to walk into a moving kaleidoscope of color, action and sound," Jenkins wrote. "The walls are decorated with French posters, flags and brightly colored photographs, as well as beautiful examples of her students' talented work.

"Odile seems to be everywhere at once — coaching the kids in pronunciation, teaching grammar, polishing their written work. Her classroom is much like she is — alive, vibrant and charming."

Jenkins described Dewar as a visionary who brings a multicultural and international experience to her students, importing speakers from diverse cultures and showcasing their arts.

"Odile not only teaches the French language, but also its culture, cuisine and viewpoints," Jenkins continued.

"Nowhere has this immersion into the French language and culture been more apparent than in Odile's partnership with the Laguna Beach sister city of Menton, France. Using cutting edge technology, Odile has pioneered the use of SKYPE to connect her LBHS classroom with the classroom of Mme. Florence LaGache in Menton.

"Over the course of the school year, the two classes converse electronically in French and English, sharing everything from favorite movies and music to political debates and philosophical conversations.

"This exchange program is an exemplary vision of multi-cultural 21st Century learning."

Former Dewar student Cassidy Hazelbeaker and her mother, Susan, as well as LBHS student Alexandra Anderson and Dewar's private student, Beth Majors, and her husband, Mark, attended the ceremony.

"Cassidy is more French than the French," Dewar said of the 2005 graduate who attended college in France.

Mayor Pro Tem Toni Iseman, Community Concert Band founder Carol Reynolds, Arts Commissioner Pat Kollenda and Philippsen, founders of the Laguna Beach Sister Cities Assn., were among the guests at the ceremony.

The group met for a champagne toast to Dewar and taste of brie before beginning the drive to Los Angeles. Designated driver Philippsen confined herself to water, even at the Beverly Wilshire hotel, to which the group repaired after arriving an hour early due to Philippsen's flawless maneuvering on the freeway.

They joined Dewar and her close friend Amelie Mbaye to sing "My Lifetime," which has become practically the theme song of the Fete de Musique presented annually in Laguna Beach by the association.

Mbaye, who is associated with the consulate, has faithfully participated in the fete every year.

Following the ceremony, the cities group detoured to the original Tommy's for hamburgers.

Also among the Lagunans at the ceremony: Sister City members Richard Schwartstein and Jennifer and Fred Karam, Sarah and Tom Hopper, Ron and Ellen Harris, Laguna Beach Unified School District receptionist Allison Cutler, Sande Schwartzstein, Dewar's teaching colleagues, Rod Ortiz and Jose Luis Gonzales, Cynthia Graflio, Claude Ismberl, Amir and Zore Gharavi, and Brian Hazelbeaker.


Clinic honors benefactors

The Laguna Beach Community Clinic hosted the Benefactors Brunch and Bubbly Sunday at the Montage Resort and Spa.

"I have the greatest job in the world honoring the people in this room," said master of ceremonies George Heed, chair of the clinic's development committee.

The brunch was held to recognize the contributions of Drs. Janet M. Chance and Paul D. Rosenblit, Dr. Korey Jorgensen and George Baechtold. They were presented with silver trays, an upgrade, Heed said, from past presentations.

Chance and Rosenblit were honored by clinic Medical Director Dr. Tom Bent as the volunteers of the year. Jorgeson was named legacy donor of the year and Baechtold as the benefactor of the year, with his most recent gift, $8,000.

"Something good did come out of the gulf spill," Baechtol said. "I had BP stock and I couldn't cope with owning it and that's where most of the recent gift came from."

The honorees were given a standing ovation.

Staff members Monica Prado, Jaime Fontaine and Adriana Sayegh and Carolyn Bent were also recognized.

Underwriters for the event included Roya Cole, Herb Dover, Andy Horowitz and clinic board of directors President Dr. Pamela Lawrence, Bob and Elaine Lawson, LB Graphics Studio, John Link and Claudia Crawford and the Montage.

"This small organization is doing what the nation and the President hasn't been able to do — giving medical care that is not dependent of insurance status or ability to pay," Heed said. "We serve the under or uninsured.

"Our largest growing population is the newly uninsured, but the clinic and staff have stepped up.

"To date we have had more than 17,000 visits. We are seeing more than 600 urgent care patients a month who need medical services and need it now. The clinic turns no one away."

The nonprofit clinic is funded by government and foundation grants and private donations, which make up the difference between the cost of the services and the patients ability to pay. The care is not free. Patients pay on a sliding scale related to their financial resources.

OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Write to Barbara Diamond, P.O. Box 248, Laguna Beach, 92652; call (949) 380-4321 or e-mail coastlinepilot@latimes.com.

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