Monday, December 11, 2017

German Teacher at East Chapel Hill Has "Big Plans"

Hip hop, classical music, world language instruction, and a high energy concert in Raleigh all added up to a major reward for East students studying German this fall. In October, the Bavarian band, EINSHOCH6, played a show for North Carolina high school students at Broughton High, and the attendee reviews were outstanding. Barbara Roeder, the only German teacher in the district, was one of the primary forces in organizing the event which was promoted by the American Association of Teachers of German (AATG). On the Saturday before the October 23 show, the band presented a workshop for German teachers, and Roeder helped organize that event as well.
Roeder began teaching German part-time at East last year, but she has already created a strong presence in the district’s world languages profile. To hear her speak about her aspirations for the program, it’s clear she is only just getting started. “I have big plans,” she said with a smile. “Leading school districts in North Carolina such as Wake County and Charlotte-Mecklenburg have strong German programs, and it is important for CHCCS to have one as well.”
One of her teaching choices is to utilize the lesson plans, videos and activities provided through the collaboration of the Deutsche Welle and the German government in the form of das Bandtagebuch mit EINSHOCH6, a comprehensive program that teaches the German language and culture through music.
Moving away from sometimes outdated textbooks and plugging into internet resources seemed an obvious choice for Roeder, who has three teenage children of her own. The fact that EINSHOCH6 is comprised of talented, progressive young musicians makes the approach all the more engaging. Roeder said that her students who attended the concert in Raleigh all knew the words to the German songs and sang along through the show.
Among the World Language options available to CHCCS high school students, what are the arguments for choosing German? Perhaps most students have little, or no, idea what the benefits of German study might be. Consider the familiar names of German businesses with US headquarters or regional offices in North Carolina: BASF, BMW, Volkswagen, DHL Global Forwarding, Siemens, Stihl, Lidl and Aldi, to name just some of the hundreds of companies. The North Carolina concentration of giant pharmaceutical corporations like Bayer, Merz, Pfizer and Novartis add to the opportunities to work for German or Swiss companies. A current posting for positions with software developer Commercetools describes it as a “growing, international company with three offices in Berlin, Munich and Durham." Roeder noted that many of her students at East intend to pursue one of the STEM fields in higher education, especially engineering, so the choice of German fits naturally with their goals.
Another benefit of studying high school German is to take advantage of the generous and abundant opportunities sponsored by the German government or European Union; a variety of scholarships and grants exist for fully funded summer and year-long experiences. Celia Nordby, now in German 3, won the state and then national competition for a three-week, all-expenses paid summer program in 2016. Two of Roeder’s students, Jackie Broz and Hailey Wunder, earned full-year scholarships through the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange, making East the only American high school to place two students in that very competitive program.
“I chose to take German as a world language because I think it’s interesting, from a linguistics standpoint,” said Nordby. “A lot of other languages, like English, are based off of German or are Germanic languages. I also take it because I think it's an important language to know on a global scale. I want to do work with the UN or the EU, and I really do enjoy it a lot.”
Roeder belongs to a group of German teachers in the state who recently launched a campaign called German4NC. ( According to their website, “nearly a quarter of North Carolinians trace their heritage to Germany, by far the largest group in the state.”
Not all of her students are motivated to learn the language because of their career goals. Some love German dance techno music, while others are drawn in by the ever-growing youth appeal of Berlin. The multiple inspirations among her students ensure a diverse and engaged cohort of German learners.
“I have put in countless hours to prepare students for tests and interviews, advise them and write recommendation letters,” said Roeder. “However, my students’ accomplishments are my greatest reward, and my hope is to build up the program even more in the future.”

Barbara Roeder is a native of a small town in Bavaria where her parents still live. She received her B.A. in English from Julius-Maximilians-Universitaet, Wuerzburg, but a scholarship for an exchange year at Davidson College introduced her to North Carolina, as well as her future husband. She has taught German for 25 years, primarily at the college level, and holds a M.A. from Appalachian State University. She has also taught at CHICLE, the local language institute for the past eight years.