Two weeks ago I received the following Facebook message from my former German teacher...
Dear [School Board Member]:
It has recently come to my attention that the Colton Joint Unified School District’s one and only German language program is once again in danger of being eliminated. As a proud graduate of Bloomington High School (class of 1998), I find this notion preposterous. I studied the German language under Patricia Pahner for four years and I can say with confidence that the time I spent learning German continues to have a profound impact on my life.
I came into the German program with no prior foreign language education and graduated from high school able to communicate in words that were not of my native tongue- this amazes me. The current state of my German skills would honestly have to be described as “rusty” at best; however, studying the German language brought me to a deeper knowledge of the English language and how language works, in general. This was a valuable tool during my college years and continues to serve me in my daily articulation of ideas and concepts.
As a high school student, I was challenged by my time spent learning German but I always looked forward to growing in my understanding of the language. It was not uncommon for me and my classmates to practice our German skills with each other outside of the classroom, just for fun- we were that interested and excited about what we were learning. I attribute this enthusiasm for language learning to the excellent teaching style of Patricia Pahner, known to most of us German students as “Frau.” Her love for German language and culture was infectious and her desire to see us succeed in her class and in life beyond was encouraging to say the least. I am certain that Patricia will find a way to continue using her gifts as an educator regardless of your decision but it is my deep hope that she will be able to serve the unique community of Bloomington High School for years to come.
I look back on my time as a student at Bloomington High School as a time of endless possibilities and unique opportunities. The diverse community made it a special place. The experiences I had while studying German, swimming on the swim team, playing in the marching band, and everything in between helped to shape me as a person and prepare me for life. I learned so much more at Bloomington High School than just core academics, I learned how to be a well-rounded human being. It would be a shame for future students to be deprived of the diverse educational opportunities I was so fortunate to enjoy.
I value the work you are accomplishing for your community and I know you are doing your best to make well-informed decisions. I hope you will consider the importance of the German language program (and programs like it) when deciding whether or not it should continue. Whatever your decision, I appreciate your time and consideration. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts regarding this matter.
Sincerely,Katherine Kenfield (BHS Class of 1998)I am not so naive to think that this letter changed the minds of any school board members. A few of them did reply to my email but they mostly just said they were doing everything they could do to save as many jobs as possible...yada, yada, yada. I realize that times are hard and there's no money anywhere and German is not exactly top priority for most people. But if you start cutting things like foreign language programs what's next? I guess all of this makes me really appreciate the education I received. Even though most people would consider Bloomington High School to be just some small school out in the sticks, I had a surprising variety of opportunities available to me there. I had no idea how privileged I was to attend a school that offered architectural drafting, video productions, and German as a second language.