Covering the small space of Dr. Elisabeth Lanois’ office are three large, colorful posters of the Eiffel Tower, pictures of the Smoky Mountains and photographs of her family traveling abroad. Her bookshelf is stacked with an assortment of French paraphernalia, including an enormous variety of films, books of French literature and cooking, and magazines.
The passion that Lanois has for all things French is evident. She says that this love of French began in high school.
“French let me become someone else,” she said, with a laugh. “It was a new identity that wasn’t just East Tennessee ‘Beth.’”
However, Lanois considers coming to Maryville to teach “a homecoming.”
She grew up in Knoxville, hiking in the Smoky Mountains. She left for the University of the South in Sewanee for her bachelor’s degree in French, then proceeded to move to Vermont for her master’s degree at the Middlebury French School, and then to Wisconsin for her doctorate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she also received a minor in art history.
During her first teaching job, in Fargo, N.D., she and her husband decided they really wanted to move to East Tennessee, for her to reunite with her hometown and family.
In 1998, Lanois accepted her current position at MC.
“When Dr. Schneibel told me I received a teaching position at Maryville it was like I knew I was coming home.”
Lanois knows how it is for students to be far away from home, having traveled overseas to France for two whole years during her time as an undergraduate and one year while seeking her master’s. She was a student of both the Universite de Paris X and the Institut D’Etudes Europeennes.
Lanois became fluent in the French language during her junior year abroad, while living with a French widow.
“I was able to practice and communicate by living with natives of the country,” she said.
One of her favorite experiences abroad in France was climbing to the top of Notre Dame Cathedral. It is over 400 stone steps up a spiral staircase to the top of the bell towers.
“Not only can you see Paris, but you are eye-to-eye with gargoyles,” Lanois reminisced fondly.
Another one of her favorite pastimes was taking long walks in Paris without using a street map as a city guide. She said she enjoyed discovering new neighborhoods “without the worry of getting lost.” She also loved celebrating New Year’s Eve with the Parisians under the city’s lights.
Paris is her favorite place in France. She says that she is “in love with the city.”
When asked if Paris is everything literature and paintings depict it to be, she said with utmost certainty: “Yes! Paris is just wonderful.”
Her family frequently encourages her to travel to other parts of France, but she says she “cannot get enough of Paris.”
“There is a saying that ‘all roads in France lead to Paris,” Lanois said.
She believes her heart will always lead her back to Paris, no matter where she travels.
Lanois encourages students to study abroad because they can “experience new cultures that are different from their own.”
“They have a chance to broaden their horizons. And, most importantly,” she laughed. “They can truly learn a new language!”
Lanois has taken J-Term trips with MC students to both Paris and Martinique in previous years.
Her advice for those who travel abroad is to practice three strategies.
“Be open to new things, be willing to make mistakes and, most of all, be courageous!”
Lanois still travels to France with her husband, Peter, and their two children, Lindsay and Peter Jr., although not as often as she would prefer. She also enjoys hiking with her husband in the Great Smoky Mountains. She says her husband is an avid trail-runner, which she jokingly says she “just doesn’t understand.” Her favorite place in the world, she says, is Mount Le Conte, the third highest peak in the Smokies.
Lanois also really enjoys her job of teaching.
She says that her favorite class to teach is elementary French due to the “feeling of starting new and having the chance to share enthusiasm with a group of new students.”
She says that she loves teaching, because she can “see students getting excited as they learn something new and see that French can be fun!”
Lanois also says that she just loves MC due to its strong center for international education, because it allows what is a relatively homogenous population to diversify due to the great amount of international students that come every year.
“Just imagine,” she said. “These students are from everywhere, and they are here, in Maryville, Tennessee!”
Overall, Lanois has let her sweet spirit and helpful nature inspire and guide a multitude of students at MC, and she will continue to do so as she imparts her own love for the French language to everyone she meets.
Lanois says that when she chose French, she “followed her bliss.”
Now, teaching at MC, she has followed her bliss around the world and back to home again here in Maryville.