Arc en Ciel has a story as bright and colorful as its name: it begins with the founder and director, Vanessa Handal-Ghenania. Vanessa’s environment has been multilingual and multiethnic her entire life: born in Haiti to French parents, she grew up speaking English, French and Creole. She would eventually move to Holland and Spain, where she learned how to speak Dutch and Spanish, respectively.
All the while, she was a student of the French education system, her parents, true believers in it. She attended the Lycée Français, eventually teaching at the one in New York upon her move to the US over 15 years ago.
Her career is as colorful and diverse as Vanessa herself. She holds two Master’s degrees from Columbia University, and has taught both in the private and public educational systems in New York City, including a period as Curriculum Developer of the New York French-American Charter School where she gained experience on the administrative end of a school. For over 10 years, Vanessa has been at the genesis of the NYC Bilingual Revolution. She was one of the first dual-language teachers of the Revolution at Carole Gardens back in 2009.
All three of her children are on the road to becoming trilingual because of Vanessa's unwavering commitment to bilingualism. After the birth of her twins, she founded the daycare (crèche)
, Petits Poussins
in Harlem, which takes in children as petit
as 6 weeks old, their youngest coming in at just 8 weeks.
Her children were her first of many students who inspired her to open another school for slightly older children on the Upper East Side. Arc en Ciel
houses children from 2.5-5 years old, in either Pre-K 3 or Pre-K 4. Each section has 2 teachers per section, one teaching in English and another in French. Each section is limited to a maximum of 15 children per grade. Arc en Ciel
offers full or half-day programs, as well as an optional summer camp in July. Parents are required to commit to a school year: September to June.
Both schools house the next generation of bilinguals, prepared to enter the world of Franco-American life whether they later attend charter, private, or public schools.
Of her students, Vanessa says, “the goal is to have them understand other people, other cultures, through languages. Children don't necessarily have to speak French, or English to be accepted in our school as they will quickly build vocabulary in these languages. For example: We accepted a little Russian girl who doesn’t speak either languages, but she’s learning, and she fits in very well."
Arc En Ciel is open for admissions now and will be having its open house on Wednesday, May 20th from 6-7pm. Check out the website for more information.