German student teachers learn and teach at Whitewater High School

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An impromptu discussion between Patrick Wallace, the German language teacher at Whitewater High School, and a professor associated with Paderborn University in the German state of Nordrhein-Westfalen, created a valuable opportunity for two students enrolled in the university’s teacher education program to gain teaching experience in an American classroom.

Wallace and the professor met during the Georgia Skills Road Show, sponsored by the Georgia Department of Education, which was held earlier this year at the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce. After returning to the university, the professor gave a presentation about his visit, and subsequently, two students asked if there were any opportunities for them to come to America to student teach.

“He then contacted me, and we worked it out between us,” Wallace said.

The two students, Rebecca Pfahl from Dusseldorf, and Nadine Bischoff from Bochum, arrived in Fayette on March 2, and will stay for one month assisting Wallace with German instruction at Whitewater High. Both are studying to become elementary school teachers in Germany. Not only is the experience giving the future teachers an opportunity to learn about the American educational system, but it is also providing Wallace’s students with first-hand knowledge about German customs and way of life.

“This is the first of what we hope are many student teachers from the University of Paderborn who will take the long flight across the Atlantic to assist with German instruction at Whitewater High. They will be sharing their experiences with students of all ages, and our students are excited to have this opportunity to learn from them,” Wallace said.

This is Pfahl’s and Bischoff’s first experience in an American classroom, and both have noticed some significant differences between school systems in the two countries. One being school sports. In Germany, schools do not offer sports. Instead, students who want to play them do so through clubs that meet after school, but are not associated with the school.

In addition to student teaching at Whitewater High, Pfahl and Bischoff will visit other schools in the county, observing classrooms and sharing their experiences and knowledge with students and teachers.

“Exchanges are not only important for students, but also for teachers, and it is exciting to have these future teachers interacting with our students and faculty,” Wallace said.