Auf wiedersehen to the SPFHS German language program

Auf wiedersehen to the SPFHS German language program

Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School will no longer offer German as a world language class after the conclusion of this year.  The deterioration of the German program in the district was directly caused by a decrease in enrollment at the middle schools. Up to 2009, fifth graders took each language (German, Spanish, Italian and French) for a marking period and in sixth grade  chose which language they wanted to take.   

   There was a disinterest in German at Terrill and Park Middle Schools. In 2009, the middle schools officially terminated German as an option for the fifth grade. German classes were offered to the students who were enrolled in German prior to the 2009-2010 school year, who were able to continue taking the class through the rest of middle school and high school. This year marks the graduation for the students in these classes.

   This year the only German class offered is an AP level class which only has four students. Because so few students are enrolled in the class, the students take an online

course from Oklahoma State University. The German class has utilized online courses since last year, though this year the class tried out a new program. “I think online classes are a wave of the future,” said Linda Materna, the district’s World Language Supervisor.  “While having a teacher present in the classroom helps to address students’ questions and provide more immediate feedback, the students have commented that their online teacher this year is very nice and is always willing to help. She responds to questions quickly and has helped to make this year’s online experience more rewarding.” With this program, the students had to do an online interview in order to get into the class.

   The students video chat with their online teacher once a week for thirty minutes. The rest of the week is focused on class work and activities that are online. All assessments are also taken online.  Li Salewski, the Mandarin teacher at SPFHS, supervises the class. Her role in the classroom is to watch over the class during tests and quizzes and maintain order in the classroom.

   Three out of the four students in the class are seniors, and the other student, Simon Oster, is a sophomore. Unfortunately,  Oster will not be able to continue his education in the language next year. “I am not sure what class I am going to take next year,” said Oster. “I have fulfilled the school requirement for world language. I will either be taking up another foreign language for my junior and senior year, or I will take other AP courses.” Oster tried promoting the German program to his fellow classmates back when he was in eighth grade, after being told that there would be no entry level German class that he could take. Oster and other prospective students wrote emails to the World Language supervisor requesting that a German I class be offered. Oster attended the Middlebury Monterey Language Academy in Vermont for four weeks during the summer, where he became proficient in the German language. After being tested, Oster was placed into the German IV class.

   Although no new language will replace it, the school has a fairly new Mandarin program. Two years ago, Mandarin was implemented by the school board by a majority vote in order to promote global diversity. A new program added this year at  the middle schools will allow a selective amount of students to learn Mandarin. The program will be an introductory course that is held twice a week for forty minutes for students in grades six through eight.

   Despite the disinterest of the German program, many students are grateful for their education in the language. “I think that it is a shame that German is ending,” said senior Lina Zikas. “Germany is the economic capital of Europe, as well as being a leading center for scientific discovery. It is a shame that the interest wasn’t there, but I’m happy that I have participated in the program.”