Julia Schulz developed the first immersion weekend in 1991 in collaboration with representatives from the UMaine Cooperative Extension Service. Penobscot Language School sponsored immersion weekends in French, Spanish, German, and Chinese, from 1991 until 2005. Then, after a hiatus, and in co-sponsorship with UMA, Penobscot Language School again sponsored French immersion weekends from 2010 to 2017.
Julia is currently Co-Founder and Co-Director of Speaking Place, a nonprofit organization that documents and revives endangered language and indigenous cultures using media-based methods adapted in part from her work as an educator. Speaking Place is currently active in minority French language, in Passamaquoddy communities in Maine, and in nine indigenous communities in Oaxaca State, Southern Mexico.
Julia grew up in Baltimore, and began studying French in sixth grade. She went on to design her own interdisciplinary major in French and Anthropology at Hamilton College, then studied in Avignon and later worked in Paris for two years as a bilingual secretary and English teacher. She earned a Master’s Degree in Anthropology from McGill researching French language use and economic history in the Franco-American community of Augusta, Maine.
Julia taught High School and college French before founding and directing Penobscot Language School in Rockland in 1986. It was there, over twenty years, that she became a leader in immersion language teaching and teacher training, having created and directed many innovative programs for adults and high school students. These included summer English as a Second Language (ESL) immersion for adults from overseas; “Le français en Guadeloupe,” in the French Antilles; and numerous short language immersion retreats in Spanish, French, German, and Chinese. For thirteen years she directed a film festival-based immersion program with Montreal’s Vues d’Afrique Festival, called “Accès Cinéma Africain”. Embracing film and video as a resource for motivating community-wide language learning, she co-directed the Franco-American Film Festival in Waterville, Maine, which is credited for catalyzing French language revival in New England. Many of the methods she employs today reviving endangered languages were adapted from her approach to immersion teaching. Drawing on earlier models, her programs integrate participation of the community, multi-level groups, and contemporary cultural and historic resources where everyone learns from each other in a dynamic and stimulating environment. Many of her students credit Julia’s “pure” approach to immersion learning as the point where they became speakers.
In 2004 Julia received the Foreign Language Association of Maine (FLAME) Leadership Award. Julia founded and has been Coordinator or Co-Coordinator of “Le français au bord de la mer” with UMA French Professor Chelsea Ray held each September since 2010 on the coast of Maine. This French immersion program has received numerous grants from both the National and Maine Chapters the American Association of Teachers of French.