QRU? German teacher Cheryl Finley

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QRU? German teacher Cheryl Finley

German teacher Cheryl Finley sits at her desk during her 8th period class.

German teacher Cheryl Finley sits at her desk during her 8th period class.

Julia Burton

German teacher Cheryl Finley sits at her desk during her 8th period class.

Julia Burton

Julia Burton

German teacher Cheryl Finley sits at her desk during her 8th period class.

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Frau Finley has been teaching German at South Lakes High School for 10 years. She also teaches Theory of Knowledge and coaches the Speech and Debate team after school. With the German exchange students arriving in the U.S. this week, she has been busy preparing for their arrival.

What is the German exchange program exactly and how does it work?

The German exchange (GAPP – German American Partnership Program) program is sponsored by the Goethe Institute and the Department of State to further cultural and educational awareness. We have two partner schools in the city of Braunschweig, Germany – the Ricarda Huch Schule and the Martino Katharineum. Every other year SLHS sends students to Germany for three-plus weeks during which time students stay with a host family and attend school. During the trip, students do some sight-seeing with the group as well. German students do the same coming to Reston for three weeks.

Do you have to be taking German in order to host an exchange student?

No, we have non-German speakers host as the purpose is for students to improve their language skills – English in the USA and German in Germany.

Is there anything special about the German exchange program compared to other exchange programs? What are the differences if any?

Braunschweig and the two schools are schools that I attended as a high school student and yearlong exchange student. I love having the opportunity to share “my schools” with the South Lakes students. As we go to the same schools, it provides students the opportunity to establish long-term relationships with their hosts and host families. We have had many instances where families have traveled back to visit or students have come to stay for an extended time. For example, Mario who travelled to Reston two years ago just spent 3 months here this summer with his host family.

How does the German classroom environment change once the exchange students are there? What about when they leave?

During their stay, students attend classes with their hosts, in particular with the German classes I write my lessons to include the exchange students so that all students taking German have the opportunity to interact and learn about one another’s cultures and language.

Do you find your students have a better grasp of German after the exchange program is over?

The students who travel to Germany for the three-plus weeks really show tremendous growth in their language skills. By staying with host families for an extended period of time and attending school the students are immersed in the language and the culture. It provides them the opportunity to be exposed to new vocabulary, idiomatic expressions, and culture.

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