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Board of Directors

President:  Polly Lyman 

An American citizen, Polly is a fundraising and communications professional who has worked in French-speaking organizations most of her adult life.  She has a B.A. in French Literature from Trinity College and an M.A. in French Literature from Tufts University.  She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Federation of Alliances Francaises of the United States. She has a much-neglected but formerly award-winning  blog, "Polly-Vous Francais?" which she began when living in Paris from 2006 - 2009.


Vice-President: Monique Copeland

A French Canadian native, Monique Laniel Copeland is a Sales Manager for Citrix Systems, a digital workspace, networking, security and analytics technology company. She has been on the French Alliance board since 2017. She lived in Paris, Montreal and has been living in Raleigh for the last 28 years.


Secretary: Anne Clayton

Anne grew up as a "third culture kid" in the US, with her French mother and Dutch father. She has lived in North Carolina for the last 20 years and works as a realtor in the Triangle.  In her personal life, she loves travel, kayaking, knitting, learning any kind of craft, and spending time with her family and dog Milo (a cute little Biewer Terrier!) 


Treasurer:  Edmund Tiryakian

Edmund Tiryakian, US citizen married to a French, is a former lawyer and investment banker who spent his career in Hong Kong, ran marathons around the world, has tracked mountain gorillas in Rwanda and bonobos in Congo.  He has now retired to his native North Carolina, living in the unexplored wilds of Hillsborough, where he tends to chickens, bees, cats and dogs in modest attempts to be a gentleman farmer. 


Stephen Smith, Ph.D

An American citizen, former correspondent in Africa for Reuter and Radio France Internationale, journalist at Libération and Le Monde, Stephen Smith is a writer and a former professor at Duke University in the African & African American Studies department.


Michèle Darrah

A French-American citizen, retired teacher from NCSU and musician, Michèle Darrah has chaired the Alliance française for more than twenty years.


Hélène Crié-Wiesner

A French-American citizen, writer, and journalist, Hélène Crié has worked for many years at Libération, a national French news daily, and for the national public radio France Inter. Based in the USA since 2000, she now writes for French media as a freelancer.


Michelle Normand

A Maine native and French-American citizen, Michelle studied art history at La Sorbonne, trained in art restoration in New York, Paris, and Florence, taught English as a foreign language for several years and wrote investment research on Wall Street. She has lived in North Carolina since 2005, with her French husband and their two sons. Her favorite pet is, of course, a French bulldog. 


Samuel Hotchkiss
Sam is an American citizen originally from Washington DC., and has lived in Durham since 2020.  He received his BS in French and Mathematics from Davidson College with a focus in the post-colonial Maghrebin experience, and studied Mathematics at l’université François-Rabelais in Tours during his junior year abroad.  Prior to his current career in Healthcare Finance and IT, Sam worked as an English language teaching assistant in the Vendée.


Employees and French Instructors

Claire Barthélemy - Executive Director

I was born in the South of France and raised in Paris.  I obtained a Master's in Literature from University Paris X and a Business degree from INALCO Paris. I went on working as an International Sales Manager in the Medical Device Industry for 15 years, home based in Italy, Germany, Israel, the Ivory Coast and the Netherlands. I moved to the US in 2000 to marry my husband Michael.  We relocated from California to Raleigh in 2017.

Marie Lambert - Program Manager & French Instructor

I was born and raised in Paris. Thanks to my Spanish parents, I also speak Spanish.  I obtained a Master's degree in Finance from University Paris IX and a degree in business law from University Paris X.  I began working in a French company as an international controller, then joined the Merger and Acquisition Department as an expatriate in Argentina and Mexico. I discovered the joy of teaching my native languages when I moved to the US after marrying my American husband. I have been teaching French in various settings ever since.

Catherine Prié-Leray- French Instructor

I was born and raised in Paris.  I obtained a BA in Education and a Master's Degree in Management.  I started my career as a school teacher and then became a school principal in the Paris area.  I taught French to natives and non natives from grade school to high school and beyond.  My husband and I relocated to Raleigh in 2017, leaving our 2 grown daughters behind.  I am truly happy to have found a francophile community in Raleigh through the Alliance Française.



Rebecca Rumpf - French Instructor

I was born and raised in South Carolina, where I earned a BA in French from Clemson University. During my university studies, I spent a semester at l'Université de Rennes II, Haute-Bretagne.  After completing an assistantship in Normandy, I earned an MA in French from Middlebury College in Vermont and Paris. In the U.S., I have taught high school and elementary School in Vermont, Massachusetts and North Carolina. 

Barbara Deck - French Instructor

I was born and raised in Paris where I studied International Business.  After several months in the UK and Ireland, I moved to Atlanta to study Visual Communications.  I then followed my husband to Chicago and decided to relocate to North Carolina during the pandemic.  I went back to school to become a French teacher.   Teaching French to anglophones is a lot of fun; I learn a lot from students from all walks of life.  

Minerva Martinez - French Instructor

I’m originally from New  York City. I am a Spanish native speaker who graduated from Fordham University in NY with a degree in French culture and civilization. I moved to France in 1996 to pursue my dream of teaching abroad. I worked at the International school in Paris and then moved to  Bordeaux where I taught English and Spanish at Bordeaux International school. In 2006 I moved back to America where I received my certification in French and Spanish to teach in the public schools of North Carolina. I have been teaching French and Spanish in both Wake county schools and Durham county schools since 2006. I’m currently teaching at Durham School of the Arts. 

Priya Joawn - French Instructor

Originally from Paris, I have lived in Cary since 2011. I graduated from ESGI International Business and Marketing School in Paris. I followed my husband to North Carolina after he completed his Master's degree at NCSU and found a job in the Triangle. 
I became a full time teacher when I moved to the US and have enjoyed teaching French to non-French speakers ever since.

Nathalie Gaut - French Instructor

Originally from Bordeaux, I moved to New York City 27 years ago with my husband. I worked at Air France while studying for my  Master's Degree in Education at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. I went on to teach at the Alliance Française of Boston, where I was named Teacher of the Year in 2003.  I was also awarded a grant to design and implement an after-school curriculum to teach French in 5 Boston public schools.  After we relocated to Chapel Hill in 2007, I took a teaching position at East and Carrboro High School.


Sophie Acquart - French Instructor

I was born and raised in Lille, in the North of France, where I obtained my Nursing Degree.  I moved to Chapel Hill in 1999 with my husband and stayed home to raise our four children. In 2003, I started teaching French to school students and received my accreditation as a DELF / DALF examiner In 2014. 

I have been working as a French instructor ever since.