GHS says auf wiedersehen to German class


Vidriana Catanzaro

German has been cut from GHS as a result of a “personnel issue,” according to adminstration

CAROLINE ENOS, Staff Writer, Editor

After a century-long run at GHS, German has been cut from the language department due to a “personnel issue,” according to GHS Principal James Cook.

“We would have kept it going if we had a teacher,” said Language Program Leader Celestino Basile.

Administration searched for a new part-time German teacher throughout the summer after Anne Paganetti retired at the end of last year. Ludger Veer was hired to fill the position, but left suddenly in November. A new search effort was made to fill the position through School Spring, the Goethe Institut, and by asking community members, but came up unsuccessful.

“A lot of people who live [outside of Gloucester] need a full time job with benefits for it to be worth commuting here,” said Basile.

“It is also difficult to find a certified German teacher,” said Cook.

The position turned part time due to dwindling enrollment numbers in German classes and at GHS.

“When I came here 34 years ago, there were about 1,200 students in this school,” said Basile. “Now there are barely 800.”

Only two German classes have run each year for the the past several years. German 1 usually was its own block, while German 2, 3, and 4 were often combined in different variations in another block. All four levels have not run simultaneously in many years.

Twenty-five students were enrolled in German 1, 2, and 3 this year. Those who passed a first semester German class have been moved to an online curriculum, or placed in an alternative class, such as Spanish or Italian,  for the remainder of the school year.

“Most of the German 1 students are now in a Spanish 1 class,” said Basile. “This is good for them because a lot of them took Spanish at O’Maley. These students also won’t lose any full year language credits, since they get 2.5 credits for German 1 and 2.5 credits for Spanish 1 if they passed both classes this year.

Basile has taken over the German 2 and 3 students so they can finish the year with online textbooks and resources, as well as physical textbooks and workbook pages. Though he cannot speak the language, Basile uses teacher copies of the students’ textbooks with the answers to their work already in them. Other teachers in the school who speak German also help him grade assessments.

“The students help each other correct their mistakes and learn together,” said Basile. “If this goes well this year, we will continue this next year for the [current] German 2 students so that they meet the normal three year language requirement for most colleges.”

“This is not as good an option as having a teacher, but it allows students to finish their third or second year of a language,” said Cook.

While German students are glad that they can finish the year, they are still facing challenges.

“Mr. Basile is an experienced and good language teacher, but at a certain point, not speaking the same language is a difficult roadblock to get around,” said junior Alexander Oaks. “I’ve spent the past two  years learning German from someone who speaks the language natively and can answer questions and knows everything about not only the language and grammar, but also the culture.”

Although GHS is losing a language, Basile stresses that the language program is still strong compared to other schools in the region.  

“We were one of the few schools who had four languages,” said Basile, who also stressed that the status of Spanish, Italian, and French at GHS is not currently at risk. “Most schools only have two.”

The removal of German class officially went into effect on the first day of second semester. Many current and past German students were upset to hear the news.

“I feel bad for the people who have already been taking the classes for several years,” said senior Kayla Saltonstall, who has taken the class for three years.

Many GHS students have been given unique opportunities through Pasch, which is a program run by the German government to immerse students across the globe in the German language and culture. GHS was a Pasch school up until last year, but this status was revoked as a result of low enrollment in German.

“I liked the opportunities that German students had compared to other students who took different languages,” said senior Soo Ae Ono, who took German for three years. “We were a part of Pasch, so we’ve had different workshops where interns from Germany would come and interact with us, and we got to go to the Goethe Institut in Boston.

“We also had German Immersion Day every year, when [German] students from Massachusetts came together and participated in various workshops that would immerse us in German culture,” continued Ono.

As most students would agree, the best part of taking German was the chance to travel the world over the summer. Through Pasch, two German students from GHS were selected to study in Germany for free each year. Students were also able to study for free on the west coast with other Americans each summer.

“My favorite thing was being able to go to Germany for free and experience the culture first hand,” said Ono, who studied with other international students in Dresden, Germany for three weeks in 2016. “I got to meet students from all over the world who share the same passion for German that I have.”

Like Ono, many students will miss the international lense German offered GHS, both inside the classroom and out.

“You can learn about a culture and learn the language, but it’s completely different to actually go to that country and really experience it,” said Ono. “If it wasn’t for Pasch and the German program at GHS, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to have this life experience and friendships that I created.”