Hélène Contat, pioneer in school anchoring

On the left are tables designed to form a circle. Then a row of high tables, with high stools. Rectangular tables on the right, surrounded by four chairs with wheels and a seat in the shape of a culbuto. On three of the four walls, whiteboards. Welcome to one of the two flexible classes at Lycée Ker-Anna, in Kervignac, Morbihan. “Did you see? There is no teacher’s office!”exclaims Hélène Contat, 59, deputy director of this private agricultural education institution.

Socio-cultural education teacher – a job specific to agricultural education – she has a broad smile: this space with its modular layout, designed for 25 students of the fourth grade, dyslexic or early school leaving, is the result of a multidisciplinary work on “school attachment started in 2014.

Innovative pedagogy

A “action research” endowed with €44,000, almost half of which is funded by the Fondation de France, with the support of François Le Clère, researcher in educational sciences at the University of Paris 8. “Hélène Contat really cares about students in difficulty, watch this† She had the intuition that it was necessary to rethink learning practices and find other formulas to avoid being excluded. His strength is his ability to carry a project and catalyze the know-how of his team to put them at the service of a dynamic. †

Supported by her then director, Guillaume Le Chêne, Hélène Contat managed to convince her colleagues to “specific pedagogy” to meet the needs of these struggling students. “They come to our school after they lose their education, if they have enough skills”regrets this mother of four children.

Using the mental management methods of Antoine de La Garanderie, using mind maps (diagrams that link ideas together, hence the importance of the many tables in the classroom), the teachers have changed their methods. With remarkable results: an almost 90% success rate in the national patent diploma and above all, the restoration of self-confidence.

“We learn differently, we take the time to learn, and the teachers are more attentive, they help us as soon as we pick up. They don’t judge us or try to bring us down.”says Serena 13 years old, dyslexic.

The other peculiarity of this class is the outdoor classes given to some students, one Friday a month. Karine Cabelguen, trainer, welcomes them to her orchard of three hectares, to work on notions of French, history or mathematics through gardening or observing flora and fauna. “Hélène defended my legitimacy with her team, emphasizes this graduate – also dyslexic – in neuroscience. She has always believed in me and given me the opportunity to move on. †

Hélène Contat, fifth of a farming family in Portsall, a town in northern Finistère, learned to fight very early by observing her father, the charismatic Alphonse Arzel. This vegetable and pig farmer, former member of the JAC (Christian Agricultural Youth), was elected mayor and then senator (centrist) of Ploudalmézeau. He fought tirelessly to defend the interests of the Breton towns polluted by the oil spill of theAmoco Cadizin 1978. He founded the mixed trade union for the protection of the coast of Brittany, which became Vigipol in 2000.

Professor of zootechnics, journalist and parliamentary assistant

“As a child of farmers, you are often called a redneck. It forged an identity for me and made me want to do good studies.”, says Hélène Contat. In particular, at Sainte-Anne de Brest secondary school, facing the children of notables. In 1985 she also fought “like a woman”, to be accepted at the École supérieure d’agriculture d’Angers, and then again when she applied for her first position as professor of zootechnics in BTS agriculture. She then became a journalist in Paris for the National Center for Private Agricultural Education review, before being snatched away by her father as a parliamentary assistant in 1991 – “ a wonderful experience of seven years in the Palace of Luxembourg, in a beautiful setting, I loved it”

Driven by her faith, she returned to Catholic education in 2000 after returning to Brittany. Appointed deputy director of Ker-Anna in 2013, didn’t she tremble at the launch of her action research? “In my family, farm workers, ENA trainees and elected officials sat around the table. It has taught me to feel comfortable in all walks of life. I’ve never been afraid to knock on doors. †

His inspiration: Pierre, this other brother

Note the difference. This quality, visible in the company of dyslexic children, goes back to Hélène Contat’s childhood. The youngest of five siblings, she was predeceased by Pierre, a boy with a chromosomal abnormality. “This disability explains many things, she notes. My brother, now deceased, has marked the family history a lot. I admired him very much. He was gifted in the theater and became an actor in the company of director Madeleine Louarn. Deep down, with my brother in mind, I told myself I would fight for several children. †

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