2023 Hall of Fame Nominee

Kristi Senden
Chugiak High School
Anchorage, AK
2023 Finalist from PNCFL

I can sleep well each night, because I truly believe that the work I do, teaching a world language, is my personal contribution towards bettering world peace, social anxiety, and geographic isolation. This is a bold statement, but after teaching and coaching students for 24 years, and coordinating 11 GAPP exchanges, I know it is powerful work. I start every parent meeting about our school exchange, with the same quote. “I’m glad that your student is interested in this adventure, because it is the best thing I do!” Each parent night I start with the quote, “Welcome to the German Program, it can be so much more than just a class”. I invest my time supporting real language use situations because they make everything I do in my day to day lessons relevant.

From the minute a student enters my classroom on the first day of German 1, I want them to feel like they are embarking on an exciting, new adventure. Teaching beginning level language learners is an intricate dance in which I vassillate between appeasing a burgeoning adult mind with pre-school level content. The kids are humbled by the challenge of learning a new language, but if I have done my job as ‘motivator’ well, in 4 years students have possibly: attended German Camp, German Day at our local University, won awards for test scores and speaking competitions, hosted Germans, traveled to Germany and mentored younger students. Since 2000, I have connected over 250 German and Alaskan families through our biannual GAPP Exchange. Beyond the lucky exchange participants, any student who studies at least 2 years of German has met real German teenagers in class for 3 weeks. Every one of my 2000 students has had the opportunity to realize how similar they are to actual German teenagers! The exchange makes the classroom learning real, and it has created lifelong friendships across borders. People who have positive interactions with foreign peoples don’t hate. I feel honored to provide that opportunity to members of my rural community.

I also want students to realize that their language skills are a great asset for pursuing their other interests. Their passion for music, engineering, medicine, cooking can be enhanced by pursuing that interest in Germany. They see that multilingualism is a dynamic addition to their life and last year during Zoom learning, I was able to show real examples. Former students joined us to tell us their stories about how German had woven through their lives since high school. We had a hunter, ski bum, Olympic rugby player, female minister, pharmaceutical field worker, and senate aide. My current students were inspired as they saw that students, who had sat in their same classroom, had cool lives partly because they had learned German. They want to be a student that I invite back in the future. Walking in the door as a freshmen to learn German should just be the first step in changing yourself, our town, and world for the better!