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CCHS German language teacher receives national honor

Susanne Smith, a German language teacher at Cherry Creek High School, is one of only 19 teachers from across the country to be honored for outstanding contributions to the teaching and learning of German in the U.S. Smith was recognized by the American Association of Teachers of German (AATG) on Nov. 21 during the group’s annual convention in San Diego.

Smith was one of six educators to receive the Goethe‐Institut/AATG Certificate of Merit for achievement in furthering the teaching of German. The others are: Gary Harger, teacher of German at Barack Obama Academy of International Studies in Pittsburgh; John Long, retired Assistant Professor in the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago; Kamakshi Murti, retired Professor of German at Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vt.; Erika Hille Rinker, Assistant Professor of German at University of Alabama at Birmingham; and Astrid Ronke, German instructor at San Diego Mesa College and Grossmont College in El Cajon, Calif.

“Recognizing the outstanding achievements of these superb teachers is truly the highlight of our convention,” said Mohamed Esa, president of the American Association of Teachers of German. “We are fortunate to have so many excellent German teachers.”

Smith has been at CCHS for 12 years and teaches German 2, German 3/4 Honors and Advanced Placement German. Under her leadership, the German program has grown steadily, with enrollment in AP German nearly doubling.

Smith involves her students in immersion activities outside the classroom, including Krabbelgruppen, where high school students read stories for young children of German natives; a German week organized almost exclusively by students; and annual trips to the Christkindlmarkt in Denver where her students perform German Christmas songs. Every year at the Colorado Sprachbad immersion weekend, Smith helps students build connections to the German language through music by learning the lyrics and dance steps to German songs.  Smith also maintains an exchange program that allows her students to do monthlong exchange visits and has led the Concordia Language Villages one-month trips to German-speaking countries for seven years.

Cherry Creek High School Principal Ryan Silva says that because of Smith’s efforts, her students experience success.

“Susanne she cares about every student she has in class and has excellent rapport with all types of students,” Silva said. “Regardless of whether she works with an advanced student or one who struggles in school, she provides the student with sound instruction that is engaging and clear. The students who aspire to learn the German language for lifelong use are fortunate to have a teacher who can challenge them and provide speaking and listening skills that will allow the student to converse with native speakers.  Susanne also has an excellent record of preparing her students to take the AP exam for German and perform at high levels.”

The AATG award is not Smith’s first honor. In 2008, she was recognized by her colleagues as Colorado German Teacher of the Year.

Posted 12/10/2015 5:07 PM
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