German Center of Excellence
Passion for language puts program at top
Moving far beyond "Auf Wiedersehen" or "Das ist gut," Upper Arlington students interested in German begin learning the language and culture in middle school.
The district's sixth through 12th grade German program recently became one of five in the country to be designated a "German Center of Excellence" by the American Association of Teachers of German.
Teacher Leader Tricia Fellinger said the collaboration between teachers is a key component in the program.
"Our passion for German and the German culture is what unites us and we want to pass that passion on to our students," she said. "I think our students pick up on our enthusiasm and it makes them want to learn."
Keith Cothrun, executive director of the AATG, said the jury that chose the award winners described Upper Arlington's program as "excellent in every category."
"Most impressive is the program's curriculum," he wrote in a letter to the Upper Arlington teachers. "Outcomes at each instructional level are clearly articulated and diverse learning styles are respected through varied instructional and assessment techniques."
Cothrun said Upper Arlington will soon receive a plaque recognizing the designation, along with a $500 cash award.
The other schools designated as German Centers of Excellence were in Colorado, California, Pennsylvania and Missouri.
Fellinger said Upper Arlington's program is designed to help students transition smoothly from one level of language to the next.
"We have a clearly articulated language sequence from the novice level all the way to the intermediate high level, so that students feel confident to take their learning to the next level," she said.
She said the collaboration between all of the German teachers ensures students get the same language experience.
"We work together to ensure we have the same goals for our students and that we are giving students authentic learning experiences that bring the culture and language alive for them in interesting and meaningful ways," she said.
Besides Fellinger, the German instructors are Emily Alaudini, Christy Charlton, Marlis Fischer and Tonya Wilder.
Charlton and Wilder graduated from Upper Arlington High School and are also graduates of the German program.
Charlton said she feels "a huge sense of history."
"I now teach where my love of German first started," Charlton said. "My former teachers, Kay Barr and Jeanine Biemel, became my colleagues. My former students are now friends and we are all extremely happy and excited about the award."
She said the district is re-establishing an exchange program with a school in Germany that was a partner school when she went to Germany as an exchange student from Upper Arlington.
Wilder said this is her first year teaching in Upper Arlington, although she taught German for 15 years at Grove City High School.
"I think the Upper Arlington program is extremely deserving of this award," she said. "I feel so honored and lucky to teach in Upper Arlington."
Fellinger said students experience German culture first-hand through trips to Germany and student exchange opportunities.
"Our students leave our program feeling ready to truly communicate in German and use it for real purposes," she said. "They can speak, write, read and understand spoken German. Many of our students go on to major in German or live and work in Germany."
Many people underestimate the important role that Germany plays internationally, Fellinger said.
"Germany is a world leader in numerous arenas -- innovation, design, technology, energy conservation, the arts and intellectual advancement, to name a few," she said. "It has the strongest economy in the European Union and the fifth strongest economy in the world. Germany is the second biggest exporter of goods worldwide."
Fellinger said when considering which languages to include in a curriculum, "it is just as important to look at the personal connections that students have to the language."
"So many of our students have German ancestry and they want to understand their family history better," she said. "Other students want to learn the language of their favorite Bundesliga (German Soccer) team or of their favorite musician.
"It is our responsibility as educators to prepare our students to be global citizens," she said.