MANATEE COUNTY — Talk about a melting pot.
Braden River High School French teacher Doriane Rencker first stepped foot on American soil as an au pair after college. She worked in several states, including New York and Connecticut, before finally landing in Washington, D.C.
There, she met the love of her life — a Japanese man named Yutaka Usui.
He was her Irish dancing teacher.
“My family always teases me that I went to the United States and married a Japanese man who taught Irish dancing,” Rencker said, laughing.
Despite the oddities, Rencker’s history is a perfect example of America’s unique blending of cultures.
And now, she is proud to call herself an American citizen.
Rencker was one of about 500 to receive her U.S. citizenship during a ceremony Sept. 28 in Tampa. At times, the ceremony reminded her of the Olympics — people stood up and cheered when their country was called, Rencker said.
“It was a lot of fun — and a little bit moving at times,” she said. “I was different (from some of the other people) because I didn’t flee a country to be here. My reason was because this is my home. I’ve been here for 10 years now, and it was a natural process.”
Born and raised in the northeast part of France, Rencker attended college in the Mulhouse Alsace region to study English.
“I fell in love with English in the sixth grade when I started taking it,” she said. “My original goal was to teach English in France.”
After earning of bachelor’s degree, Rencker began her stint as an au pair in the U.S. She returned to France after one year but came back and married Usui. While in D.C., the couple taught Irish dancing and even toured the country and Canada as performers in the summers.
Usui also worked as a Japanese-English interpreter in the business sector, but following 9/11, work slowed. The couple had friends in Ft. Myers and began looking for a home in Florida. They arrived for a visit in August 2004 — the day Hurricane Charley hit.
Because of the storm, the couple traveled north and eventually arrived in Bradenton.
“We definitely wanted something near the beach and in warm weather,” Rencker said. “It’s wonderful (here). I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”
At first, the couple tried to resurrect its Irish dancing classes, but when that didn’t blossom, Usui launched an accordion repair business and Rencker took a job teaching English at Southeast High School.
After two years, she transferred to Braden River to teach her native language.
“It’s fun because you get to break down the stereotypes,” Rencker said of sharing her heritage with high school students. “Some students think French people don’t shave or don’t have refrigerators. It’s funny.
“I think they like that I have the real accent, too,” she said. “And they like the fact that I can correct the book sometimes.”
The day Rencker received her citizenship, she came to school dressed head-to-toe in red, white and blue and tucked an American flag in her hair. The Braden River community celebrated the achievement by naming her its Pirate of the Day.
“I got congratulations from everybody — it was great,” she said. “Everyone was happy for me. Maybe I’ll be taken more seriously — like I am for real now.”
Contact Michael Eng at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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