© Sarah Smith
Your background: Where, when, and why did you learn German?
I learned German in high school, beginning in the fall of 1998. I took German because a less than wonderful time in eighth grade Spanish made me want to get as far away as possible.
Where, when, and why did you decide to become a German teacher?
I decided to become a German teacher in the summer of 2003. I had recently switched my major to German the previous term, and was wondering what I might do with a degree in German. As long as I could remember, teaching has always been an interest of mine, so the decision was made.
What is the most challenging part in teaching German? What is the most rewarding?
The most challenging part in teaching German is learning to walk the line between maintaining academic rigor, while keeping the information interesting/light while trying to keep a full-time program. The most rewarding part in teaching German is when my students take it upon themselves to delve into the culture and language on their own.
Is there anything like a “special profile” to those students who take learn German?
If there is a “special profile” it is probably different in Texas. We have quite a few heritage speakers, though our “Texas-Deutsch” dialect is almost dead. For the most part, though, we get students who are looking for something different, either because they, themselves, are kind of different, or because they wanted to do something different than (the majority of) their friends.
Where did/do you get support, guidance as a yet relatively inexperienced German teacher?
To get support, I either ask other German teachers in my school district for input, or I will get into touch with my mentor teacher from my student teaching semester. Other times, I will reach out to people I have met in the profession (from ACTFL, TFLA, Goethe-Institut Seminars, or AP Summer Training), via email or Facebook. The support or guidance I generally seek is how to teach a specific thing, or to see if an idea is plausible. When I need to know how well something will be received, though, I will usually ask a friend who doesn’t know German—if they can get the concept, I know it will work.
In your opinion: What are the prospects for German as a foreign language in the US?
In my opinion, the prospects for German as a foreign language in the US differ, depending on if you mean as a career, or from the student perspective. I think that there is a quite a lot of encouragement from different areas to keep German from falling off of the second-language map, but it is work which must always be maintained, or the language will fall farther out of vogue. Access to the language in real time, in the United States, I think, is a major inhibitor of its ability to remain strong, state-side.
The interview was conducted by Christoph Veldhues and Olga Liamkina.