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AATG Chooses MHS Teacher Sandra Dieckman as Top High School German Language Educator in the Country

Press Release|
Shane Mauldin|
Thursday, October 6, 2016

McKinney, Texas – Since childhood, McKinney High School German teacher Sandra Dieckman’s love of the German language has been rooted in the fertile soil of family ties. But, it was a youthful inclination to sidestep authority that helped it bloom.

“My grandparents both came from German-speaking countries,” Dieckman said. “They lived in a German-speaking part of Kansas, so they would speak it as a secret language. My mother was not allowed to learn it because around that time—after [World War II]—you didn’t want people speaking German.

“Since it was the ‘secret language,’ of course, that was more of a reason to learn it, so that’s why I started,” Dieckman said with a chuckle. “And, then I had a fantastic high school teacher.”

Sandra Dieckman

MHS German teacher Sandra Dieckman has been named the 2016 9–12 Outstanding German Educator by the American Association of Teachers of German (AATG).

Dieckman’s passion for the German language blossomed into a teaching career of her own that has spanned well over two decades. And, over the course of that time, she’s been something of a “fantastic high school teacher” herself.

In fact, the American Association of Teachers of German (AATG) has chosen Dieckman as its 2016 9–12 Outstanding German Educator. She’ll be honored during an awards presentation at the national AATG Convention held in conjunction with the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) Convention and World Languages Expo in Boston, Massachusetts on November 19.

“Sandra Dieckman is the teacher we hope our children have when they study the language,” said Beth Smith, retired German teacher and former national president of the American Association of Teachers of German.

The selection committee particularly noted Dieckman’s contributions, including her strong leadership in the North Texas AATG chapter; her dedication to providing German language opportunities for students outside the classroom through her work on the organizing committees for Winterfest, the North Texas regional German student contest, as well as the Texas State German Contest; and her commitment to serving the profession by sharing her expertise through presentations at state, regional and national conferences.

“MISD was very fortunate when Sandra Dieckman decided to make McKinney High School her new home,” said Marita Cleaver, MISD coordinator of advanced academics and LOTE. “Her reputation precedes her, and she is known within the German teacher community for her expertise, dedication and love for her students. It was with great joy and pride when we were able to welcome her to our community because we knew the positive impact she will have to help our students succeed in their foreign language classes. Her teaching influences students way beyond the classroom: Mrs. Dieckman guides them with her extra-curricula activities to grow into mature young citizens, actively contributing community members and citizens of the world.”

AATG boasts more than 4,000 members from across all 50 states and nearly 20 countries and claims to be the only individual membership organization in the United States dedicated to the teaching of the language, literature and culture of the German-speaking countries. They have 60 local chapters whose members represent elementary, middle/junior high school, high school and post-secondary teachers.

“Well, it’s a very big deal. I’m really honored because parents and students and my colleagues and people throughout the profession had to write letters and put this together to send to the national office,” said Dieckman. “To get picked as the only high school teacher in the country to win the award, that’s a huge deal.”

Dieckman has found that kids usually end up in her German class for one of two reasons—reasons that echo her own experience. “The kids who take German are the kids who didn’t want to do what everybody else did,” Dieckman says. “Or, the kids I have are here because they have family ties, some kind of connection there. But, generally, it’s a lot of, ‘I’m going to do something different.’”

But, a desire to do something different doesn’t necessarily mean that students come into class bearing an inherent appreciation of German. The joy of cultivating that appreciation and taking those students from first year to fourth year keeps Dieckman motivated and inspired to do the kinds of things that parents and students and colleagues and people throughout the profession take notice of and point out to organizations like AATG.

“I’ve started up several events for students and run immersion days and different contests where kids can win scholarships and awards,” Dieckman explained. She’s taken classes on trips to Germany where they could let their classroom knowledge loose in the real world and return to regale her with tales of their accomplishments. “They come back and tell me things like, ‘I ordered an ice cream,’ and you would have thought that they had split the atom or something,” Dieckman said with a laugh.

She spoke proudly of the time her students engaged the German ambassador in an impromptu 10 minute conversation spoken entirely in the ambassador’s native tongue.

“The key thing was, I remember these kids coming in and not knowing a word of German, and at the end of the year, we’re discussing global warming and we’re talking about all of these heavy topics in German,” Dieckman said.

“And, that’s what this is about. It’s taking somebody from having nothing to suddenly, it’s theirs. It’s not, ‘I can do these pages in the book.’ It’s, ‘I can do something with this [in the real world].’”

And, in contrast to Dieckman’s experience, there is no need to be sneaky about that.

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