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French Class Maria Rebbert, Professor of French
Professor of French Maria Rebbert will retire from Hillsdale College at the end of the semester. Hillsdale College | Courtesy

After 32 years of teaching French at Hillsdale College, devoted Professor of French Maria Rebbert will retire after this semester.
Known in the French department for her infectious laughter and dedication to her students, Rebbert helped build the French department and expand its course offerings after she came to Hillsdale in 1984, former Professor of French Ellen Justice Templeton said.
“From the very beginning, she has been a completely, positively spirited colleague,” Templeton said. “She is the most dedicated professor at Hillsdale. She goes way beyond to help students, and she is always available.”
Rebbert frequently can be found in her office, either helping a student one-on-one or chatting with students to help them practice their conversational skills.
Senior Ben Durrington, a French major, has taken six classes with Rebbert — from French 101 through upper- level literature classes. One of Durrington’s favorite memories of Rebbert is when she would bring LU Biscuits, milk chocolate-covered buttery biscuits, to her students — a bite of French culture to reward students’ hard work and help them get through tests.
“I think she’s good at communicating her love of French culture and getting other people excited about it,” he said. “For me, when I took French 101 with her, that’s when I fell in love with French.”
Rebbert said people in her life knew she would be a teacher since she was six or seven years old. She used to teach her siblings spelling, using Old Maid cards as flashcards, after they came back from elementary school.
When she began assistant teaching in graduate school, she said she remembers thinking to herself, “Wow, I can’t believe people are paying me to do this; it’s so much fun!”
Durrington said he appreciated the broad scope of French culture and literature Rebbert taught. She helped her students close-read texts from many different centuries and dig into ideas that were not just in her area of expertise.
Rebbert said she enjoyed teaching a little bit of everything at Hillsdale: from beginning French to 19th century literature, her favorite class, to film seminars. A bit of a romantic, she said she loves the stories of courtly love, princesses, knights, and towers in medieval French literature.
A Washington, D.C., native, Rebbert said she enjoys living in a small town. After retiring, she said she plans to volunteer at the Hillsdale County Medical Care Facility, a nursing home, and the Humane Society. She said she hopes to take advantage of all the things the college brings to campus, spend more time with her two cats and her beagle — who will be happy to see her more often — and learn sign language.
She said she also will enjoy having more time to read outside of what she would to prepare for class, such as Russian literature — a favorite genre. She also will have time for kayaking, hiking, and cross-country skiing.
“If there’s heavy snowfall next winter, I’m the one who has been asking for it,” she said.
French Department Chair Marie-Claire Morelec spoke of Rebbert’s devotion to her students, as well as her thoughtfulness and kindness as a colleague to everyone in the faculty.
“We in the French department will miss her and wholeheartedly wish her a very happy retirement,” Morelec said in an email.