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South Forsyth High honored for German program

SOUTH FORSYTH — One local high school is now connected to about 1,700 schools around the world by its dedication to teaching the German language.

South Forsyth High School was presented with a certificate Monday from the German Deputy Consul General recognizing its membership as a PASCH School, which stands for “Schools: Partners for the Future.”

The school on Peachtree Parkway works with German companies within Forsyth County through its career pathway program and teaches German to a high percentage of students.

“World languages are an elective in Georgia, but we have seen continuous growth,” said Michaela Claus-Nix, program specialist at the state Department of Education.

She said an average of 30 percent of the student population in Georgia’s schools takes a foreign language.

South’s participation rate in the world language program, she said, is at least 70 percent.

“The talent level of the students here at this school, it is absolutely remarkable,” said School Superintendent Jeff Bearden.

Bearden added that he has been impressed with the level of partnership between schools in the district and the international business community.

Students taking German at South have had the opportunity to travel to the European country and to work with German firms in the county.

The global initiative is led by the Federal Foreign Office in partnership with the Central Agency for Schools Abroad, the Goethe-Institut, the German Academic Exchange Service and the Educational Exchange Service of the Standing Conference of the Ministries of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany.

German is one of the world’s 10 most important languages on a scale of values, including about 5,000 languages that exist, according to the PASCH website.

With about 100 million speakers, German is the “most spoken native language in Europe and — after English — the most spoken foreign language” in the European Union.

Jonas Strecker, German teacher at South, said nearly every one of his students won some type of award or recognition related to their German studies this year, whether winning at the state German competition or scoring in the top 1 percent of the state exam.

Strecker said he tries to teach his students to “study to do well in life, not to do well in school” and that learning a language exemplifies that idea.

Erin Flanagan, a senior at South and the president of the German National Honor Society, said she chose German because her parents did a German exchange program and she wanted to gain the same experience.

She said Strecker’s class is more fun than a normal high school course because they learn the language through activities such as songs, dances and cultural topics.

“It makes sense to me,” she said. “It clicked to me.”

Flanagan said she is trying to go to Germany this summer before attending Kennesaw State University to major in the language.

“[Knowing German] opens many doors in the globalized world,” said German Deputy Consul General Thomas Wülfing. “Not only us but all our colleagues, we are here to support [South] in any way we can … Welcome to the family.”