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The original Palmes académiques was instituted on 17 March 1808 and was bestowed only upon teachers or professors. In 1850, the decoration was divided into two classes:
Officier de l'Instruction Publique (Golden Palms);
Officier d'Académie (Silver Palms).
In 1866, the scope of the award was widened to include major contributions to French national education and culture made by anyone, including foreigners. It was also made available to French expatriates who made major contributions to learning or education in the wider world.
Since 1955, the Ordre des Palmes académiques has had three grades, each with a fixed number of recipients:
Commander (Commandeur) - gold palm of 60 mm surmounted by a laurel wreath (couronne) worn on necklet.
Officer (Officier) - gold palm of 55 mm worn on ribbon with rosette on left breast.
Knight (Chevalier) - silver palm of 50 mm worn on ribbon on left breast.
Brian Zager, Principal Lafayette Academy, Founder of first Middle School Dual Language French Program in Manhattan; built a successful program of French; Native New Yorkers; through a rigorous curriculum earning the label Franceducation. Principal Zager met with First Lady Briggite Macron in September of 2019 to collaborate on and discuss social emotional learning.
Ralph M. Hester, Professor of French, Stanford University, co-author of Découverte et Création, the most widely used textbook for teaching French in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s. In 2000, Hester launched the Interdisciplinary Institute of French Studies, now the France-Stanford Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, with partner funds from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Mimoza Ceka, teaching assistant of French Language in University of Tetovo, primary school teacher of French language in primary school "LIRIA" - Tetovo, and a collaborator of Alliance Française and Institut Français in North Macedonia.
The badge, unchanged since its creation in 1808, consists of a pair of violet-enamelled palm branches. It is suspended from a plain violet ribbon.