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.