German Alumni in Education


LauraI graduated from Wheaton with a German major and a Political Sciences minor.

Although I had no hesitation when choosing my German major and Political Science minor, some people wondered how I would use it in the “real world” after college. My usual response was, “international business.” I quickly discovered after college that I had no interest in international business. Slightly disheartened, I started substitute teaching in local Wheaton middle schools and high schools.

It was through a long-term substitute position that I discovered my passion for teaching. Shorty thereafter, I enrolled in a one year secondary education teaching certification/master’s program. Since the completion of my program, I have been teaching for five years, one year teaching World History to high school freshmen, and the last four years teaching 8th grade social studies and "Exploring Foreign Cultures".

God had a plan for my German major and political science minor. I never would have believed it, but God is allowing my passion for foreign language and politics to merge with a fairly new passion: educating and inspiring kids. I use my knowledge of German language and culture throughout my entire school year teaching U.S. History and culture.

From my study of German culture, I learned that Germany has been in a historically precarious position given its location smack in the middle of the European continent. My study abroad experience with Wheaton in Germany provided me with invaluable stories and insights that I connect to my middle school curriculum. I was able to see with my own eyes, Nazi rally centers, concentration camps, bits of the Berlin Wall, and bombed out churches. In my culture class, I get to elaborate on beautiful cathedrals, castles, and walled cities. I am able to teach the students the German language on an exploratory level. I also get to tell fun stories about Germans and their tendencies. For example, never, under any circumstance, walk across the street on a red light. Little German ladies will shout things at you like, “Rot ist Tot!”

In an effort to keep myself connected to Europe and various teaching opportunities, I completed a certification program to teach English as a foreign language (TEFL). I opted to take an intensive one-month program through Trinity College, London. I took classes during the day in the city center of London, and after two weeks, was able to start my practicum teaching English to adults from all over the globe. The linguistics class that language majors are required to take at Wheaton helped prepare me for this program. One of the best ways I utilized my major was taking a three week solo trip throughout Europe. I couldn’t have traveled so successfully by myself had I not participated in the Wheaton in Germany program. Through that program I learned how to get around Europe by trans-continental train and how to use the extensive network of underground trains/subways. I also learned how to find cheap meals for lunch, and (yes, Dr. Shaffer) how to pack lightly (I learned the hard way). I was able to travel with ease around eastern European countries. I used more German than English in countries like the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Switzerland.

Being a German major has opened my eyes to new ways of thinking and new opportunities. The knowledge I have gained has shaped my world view and many aspects of my career. Opportunities in the “real world” for German majors are plentiful. You just never know where they might take you!

Sarah, '00

SarahI attended a small Lutheran high school in suburban Cleveland, Ohio that offered two foreign languages: Spanish and German. My mother minored in Spanish in college, and I wanted to prove that I could master something different on my own, so I took German. A lot of people warned me that German would be too hard, but I found it to be the opposite. My German teacher was so enthusiastic about the language and culture that I hung on to every word in class. I participated in an exchange program that year with a high school in Hamburg, and my life has never been the same.

I started my freshman year at Wheaton as a biology/chemistry major with a possible interest in Pharmacology. After an entire semester of my English major roommate having to help me with my chem homework, I decided that I didn't have the passion and drive needed for me to excel in the sciences.

Since I was little I wanted to be a teacher, so I decided to give secondary education a try. I told some friends at dinner in the dining hall that I was switching majors, and one person asked what content area I would teach. I didn't even know that I was supposed to pick a specific subject!! So, I thought about what I was good at and what I liked, and said, "Well, I guess I'll do German". Looking back, I can hardly believe that such a big decision was made in a seemingly careless way, but I am so thankful that I made it.

I can't imagine feeling more fulfilled or blessed in a career. Since 2003, I've been teaching German at a high school in Illinois. In addition to teaching four levels of German (from beginner to AP), I am the German Club advisor and also lead a student trip to Germany every two to three years. I have also served as vice president and president of the local German teacher's professional organization (AATG). Additionally, I've completed another master's degree and had a baby, too!!!

A teacher's life is very hectic, but it is possible to balance work and leisure. I've had one student teacher already, and I would love to meet with anyone who would like to observe classes or just talk about foreign language instruction.

Teaching teenagers is sometimes challenging, but always rewarding. It's amazing to see the progress students make, not only in their language skills, but also in their steps to adulthood. I feel humbled and honored to have a role in so many students' lives.

Laura, '04

Laura HI majored in English and minored in German and French at Wheaton, and currently I am the Age 4/5 Teacher of Promiseland, the children's ministry at Willow Creek Community Church. Although I don't actively use my German in my job, I would not trade my experience in the German program at Wheaton for anything!

I originally decided to study German because my father was born in Biblis (einer kleinen Stadt in der Nähe von Worms) and both sets of grandparents immigrated from Germany. I have many relatives still living in Germany and, as many of them don't know English, I wanted to be able to communicate with them as well as possible. My grandparents tried teaching my sisters and me German when we were little, but we didn't have the desire to learn at that point. The older I got and the more I learned of our family history, the more I fell in love with the country and culture. I wanted not only to experience the country (we visited 3 times before I was high school age), but also the full scope of my family's foundations.

The German Program at Wheaton not only taught me the language, but also the spirit and passion of a culture and people halfway around the world. Herr Shaffer and Frau Schreiber created a "little Germany" with every classroom; they taught the heart of the people. The community I felt in my German classes (between students and professors) was so deep and real, I decided to minor in German (as opposed to simply learning the language structure), and I looked forward to my German classes. Leading film discussions for my peers was a hard task, as was comprehending the intricacies of German literature, but when I look back at my time at Wheaton, I see how each challenge helped me grow as a person, not only as a German student.