Life Style

Hélène Contat, pioneer of school “anchoring”



On the left, tables designed to form a circle. Then a row of high tables, with high stools. On the right, rectangular tables, 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 two flexible classes at Lycée Ker-Anna, in Kervignac, Morbihan. ” You did see ? There is no office for the teacher! »exclaims Hélène Contat, 59, deputy director of this private agricultural education establishment.

A teacher of socio-cultural education – a job specific to agricultural education – she wears a big smile: this room with its modular layout, designed for 25 fourth-grade pupils, dyslexic or dropping out of school, is the result of a multidisciplinary work on “school attachment” initiated in 2014.

Innovative pedagogy

A “action research” endowed with €44,000, almost half of which is financed 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 one. She had the intuition that it was necessary to revisit teaching practices and find other formulas to avoid excluding them. His strength is his ability to carry a project and to catalyze the know-how of his team to put them at the service of a dynamic. »

Supported by her director at the time, Guillaume Le Chêne, Hélène Contat succeeded in convincing her colleagues to consider a “specific pedagogy” to meet the needs of these struggling students. “They come to our school after having lost their schooling, when they have plenty of skills”laments this mother of four children.

Using Antoine de La Garanderie’s mental management methods, resorting to mind maps (diagrams allowing ideas to be linked together, hence the importance of the many tables in the class), collaborative work, the teachers have turned their methods. With remarkable results: a success rate of nearly 90% in the national patent diploma, and above all the return 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 put us down.”says Serena 13 years old, dyslexic.

The other particularity of this class is the lessons given in the great outdoors to some students, one Friday a month. Karine Cabelguen, trainer, welcomes them to her three-hectare orchard, to work on notions of French, history or mathematics by practicing gardening or observing flora and fauna. “Hélène defended my legitimacy with her team, emphasizes this graduate – also dyslexic – in neuroscience. She always believed in me and gave me the opportunity to go further. »

Hélène Contat, fifth of a farming family in Portsall, a town in northern Finistère, learned to fight very early on by watching 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 from theAmoco Cadizin 1978. He is at the origin of the mixed union for the protection of the coast of Brittany, which became Vigipol in 2000.

Professor of zootechnics, journalist and parliamentary assistant

“When you’re a child of farmers, you’re often called a redneck. It forged an identity for me and made me want to do good studies”, says Hélène Contat. In particular at the Sainte-Anne de Brest high school, facing the children of notables. In 1985, she also fought ” as a woman “, to be accepted at the École supérieure d’agriculture d’Angers, then again when she applied for her first position as a professor of zootechnics in BTS agriculture. She then became a journalist in Paris for the review of the National Center for Private Agricultural Education, before being poached by her father as a parliamentary assistant in 1991 – “ a great experience of seven years at the Luxembourg Palace, in a magnificent 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, did she not tremble when launching her action research? “In my family, there were agricultural workers, ENA interns and elected officials around the table. It taught me to be comfortable in all walks of life. I’ve never been afraid to knock on doors. »

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His inspiration: Pierre, this different brother

Pay attention to the difference. This quality, visible when observed in the company of dyslexic children, goes back to the childhood of Hélène Contat. The youngest of five siblings, she is predeceased by Pierre, a boy with a chromosomal abnormality. “This handicap explains many things, she remarks. My brother, now deceased, marked the family history a lot. I admired him very much. He was gifted at the theater and became an actor in the troupe of the director Madeleine Louarn. Deep down, with my brother in mind, I told myself that I would fight for different children. »

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