What is the most rewarding part of your career as a language teacher?
Seeing my students speaking and having fun with the language. Our yearly festival is a great time for students to showcase their language skills. Each class writes and produces a play that they present to all the German students at Senior High School. It is so fun watching them create and having fun with the language. Through this creative process, students really grow as language learners. At the beginning they are shy, but as they write and act out what they wrote, their whole persona changes. They take ownership and feel accomplished. It is also nice to see them work as a team. In the end, they are so proud of what they have accomplished. And I am so proud of them.
What is one personal or professional goal that you have for yourself, your school or your department?
A personal goal is to laugh every day. This goal is not just for me, I have found over the years that students learn best when the class is light-hearted. Students love to laugh and so do I. I set a high bar for my students and I expect a lot out of them. I expect them to read, write, listen and speak German. Therefore, letting them also have fun is so important. Activities are challenging, but given in a way that is kid friendly. We sing, we dance, we do skits...We even laugh in AP German! By level 4, students are good speakers and are able to hold discussions about real world topics. This is really challenging. When they make mistakes, they are able to wade through the challenges with humor. They are able to express themselves as best they can and know that the classroom is a safe environment.
A professional goal that I have been working on is to incorporate AP topics into all levels of German. In order for students to be successful AP students at level 4, they need a huge vocabulary and and a wide variety of language skills. They need to practice AP topics and skills from the get go. That is why it is so important for me to speak only German in German class and create an environment where they also want to speak. The more they are immersed in the language, the more likely that they will be successful. Students are expected to speak German the whole period in levels 3 and 4. Some students speak earlier than that, but I try to stay relaxed with the level 1 and 2 students. They will talk when they are ready.
What is one of your favorite travel experiences?
I have been bringing students to Germany and Austria since 2004. We have had so many travel adventures, seen so many fun and new things and stayed in so many different kinds of places. My favorite trips though are always the ones where we spend time in schools. We have pen pals in Rottweil where my long-time friend lives. She is a Spanish and English teacher at a Berufsschule (vocational school). My students get to meet their pen pals and many other German students. They exchange contact information and often times those contacts last for years. The students keep in touch and even plan new travel experiences together.
Do you have any advice for other world language teachers?
Speak the language every day for most of the period in all levels! Start the very first day in Level 1. Make sure that it is kid friendly, though! My favorite quote from a student this year was, “How are we supposed to learn to speak if we don’t hear you speaking the language every day? This is a language class!” It is not enough to play listening activities. The students must see you speaking! Only then will they have to courage to also speak the language themselves!