This year marks the final year of the German program, as Herr Peter Kempe, Mercersburg’s longtime, much-loved, and sometimes feared German teacher retired last year. In order to allow current students of German to fulfill the school’s three-year language requirement a new German teacher, Frau Renata Wildermuth is teaching, albeit virtually.
Nora Smith ‘24 is a current German III Honors student, who took German I and II Honors last year with Herr Kempe. “Last year was amazing. Herr Kempe was amazing and taught us quickly. This year we don’t speak as much German because everything is online and there are always issues with the technology,” said Smith.
Vienna Horstmann ‘23, a native German speaker is serving as a teaching assistant and librarian Suzanne Taylor is serving as a faculty supervisor so that there is in-person support available. Taylor, who doesn’t speak German, facilitates the class-to-class interactions, while Horstmann checks the work students do.
Because of the virtual format, students are unable to experience the German immersion that they enjoyed in previous years. Smith says, “We aren’t speaking as much verbal German as we were in German I and II, and with Frau Wildermuth talking to the class virtually, we can’t [always] clearly hear what she is saying.”
Horstmann says, “I feel like Frau Wildermuth’s German is just fine [although] a lot of what the students learn is not modern.
One fun activity is planning the virtual German trip each Friday. In these classes, the German students find a city or location in Germany and plan a multi-day trip there. While they don’t actually get to go, it serves as a fun way to immerse the class in German culture, which is something that has been a central focus of the German program for years.