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Millcreek Journal

‘I have two homes now,’ French teacher at Morningside Elementary becomes U.S. citizen

Jan 23, 2020 02:55PM ● By Heather Lawrence

Fifth grade students from Morningside Elementary perform at a naturalization ceremony where one of their teachers became a U.S. citizen. (Anne Reese/Morningside Elementary)

By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]

The U.S. naturalization ceremony held on Dec. 18, 2019 was special for Morningside Elementary School. Fifth graders participated in the ceremony by performing an original monologue. Then they saw their French teacher, Laura De Backer, become a naturalized citizen.

“I decided to become a U.S. citizen because my daughter is a citizen, and also because I wanted to be more involved in the community. [I wanted to] be able to vote and be heard as a member of the community,” De Backer said. 

The ceremony was held at the Jeanne Wagner Theatre in Salt Lake City. De Backer was one of 128 people who participated in the citizenship ceremony. Morningside students were also on the program. 

“A group of our students performed at the naturalization ceremony where she received her citizenship. When the students were walking on stage, prior to their performance, the emcee asked [De Backer] to stand and be recognized as [their] teacher,” said Anne Reese, Morningside principal.  

The students “performed a monologue they had written about notable immigrants, inventors, thinkers [and] activists and their achievements,” Reese said. 

De Backer is a native of France. She teaches in the French dual-immersion program at Morningside. “[De Backer’s] students work hard each day mastering their skills in French. Students thrive in the positive classroom climate she has created,” Reese said. 

“She is a fantastic teacher here at Morningside, and we are proud of her professional accomplishments… as well as her personal accomplishment of achieving U.S. citizenship,” Reese said. 

The decision to become a U.S. citizen was one De Backer approached thoughtfully and over many years. 

“I moved to the U.S. in 2010, so it will be 10 years in April. I decided to become a citizen about five years ago when my daughter was born. It took me some time to start the process because it is costly, and requires some time to gather the required information. So I pushed [it] back a few years and finally applied last year,” De Backer said. 

The United States District Court for the District of Utah oversees the citizenship ceremonies, which happen monthly. Among other requirements, petitioners must pass a U.S. citizenship test and have lived in the country for a certain amount of time. 

De Backer said being a citizen gives her more freedom in how long she is able to travel back to France. “I moved in the U.S. when I was 30, so I have a strong attachment to France. If something were to happen with my family [there] I can go [back] for a longer period of time without fearing of losing my status here,” De Backer said. 

De Backer now has dual citizenship in the U.S. and France. “Having dual citizenship gives me the opportunity to keep that tie to my country of birth, while also having my home here. It also doesn’t hurt to have a U.S. passport and a European passport for travelling,” De Backer said. 

“I have two homes now, here and France.”