LANGDON — From incorporating TikToks into her lessons to organizing virtual discussion groups for teens near and far, a local French teacher’s efforts have earned her a statewide award.

The Franco-American Centre — a Manchester-based nonprofit that promotes French language, culture and heritage — recognized Rebecca Fortgang of Fall Mountain Regional High School as one of two 2021 Teacher of the Year Award recipients, the organization announced in a news release last week.

“It meant a lot because I’ve been working as a teacher for the last 11 years — this is the 12th year — and I’ve not won an award like this,” Fortgang said in an interview Monday. “… Especially with COVID, I’ve been focusing on getting my kids opportunities to speak and have experiences. … It was nice to know these efforts were recognized.”

In addition to French, Fortgang teaches Spanish and chairs the school’s world language department. She also is the advisor of the Fall Mountain French Honor Society and has connected her students with two French-speaking groups in New Orleans, according to the release.

The Langdon resident also oversees the Franco-American Centre’s Teen Prêt-à-Parler, a virtual speaking group that meets monthly and connects students from across the country, the release states. Fortgang is a member of the American Association of Teachers of French and established a Running Start program at Fall Mountain, allowing students to receive dual credit for community college classes.

Fortgang joined the Fall Mountain language department in 2019, the semester before the COVID-19 pandemic pushed educators and students to remote learning. While not always easy, the shift to virtual instruction provided an opportunity to explore different approaches to language instruction, which included watching French TikToks, she said.

Fortgang also saw Zoom as a good tool to connect with French speakers across the country. She browsed through Facebook, looking for groups that would challenge but not overwhelm her students and found a good match with students in Louisiana.

“I have a good time with it too,” she said. “The amount that they learn and how much they improve is ridiculous.”

Fortgang began studying French in middle school and continued at Inter-Lakes High School in Meredith. At Keene State College, she majored in French — in addition to taking Spanish classes — and earned her teaching certificate.

She said language learning offers a way to explore regional heritage — noting that many people in New Hampshire can trace their roots back to French-Canadian ancestors — as well as fosters a point of connection.

Misty Bowden Strevig of Gorham Middle School was also named a winner of the award. The Franco-American Centre did not recognize anyone with the award last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so two winners were named this year, according to executive directive John Tousignant.

Eight teachers were nominated across the state, Tousignant said in an email. The centre’s education committee evaluated the nominees in search of those who, among other qualities, demonstrate enthusiasm for teaching; promote French-related professions through advocacy, professional development and mentoring; and belong to an organization for French teachers or speakers.

Fortgang said winning the award wasn’t a total surprise, since the two students who nominated her had told her they threw her name in the ring. But, she added that she’s grateful for the recognition, as well as for all the work the Franco-American Centre does.

“I love and support all that they do,” she said. “And they do a great job in supporting teachers.”

Molly Bolan can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1436 or mbolan@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @BolanMolly.