Uwe Goodall-Heising: 2012 Teacher of Excellence Award Winner

Uwe Goodall-Heising Enlarge image Born and raised in Cottbus, Germany, Uwe Goodall-Heising is a second-generation teacher - both of his parents were teachers. (© Uwe Goodall-Heising) The German program at Hanover High School (HHS) in the scenic New England college town of Hanover, New Hampshire, is thriving today, but this was not always the case. Before 2007, the school’s three sections of German were often undersubscribed. Budget shortfalls even threatened to discontinue the program in 2010.

That the German program was not shuttered, but rather expanded and strengthened to become a highly popular foreign language class at HHS, is thanks to the extraordinary talent and commitment of German teacher Uwe Goodall-Heising.

More than a Profession

How did Mr. Goodall-Heising, born and raised in Cottbus, increase interest in his classes to the point where an additional section of German was added and the numbers of students in each section grew? To begin with, he brought more than 10 years of teaching experience at the high school and university levels in Germany and the US to HHS. The fact that Mr. Goodall-Heising is a second-generation teacher (both of his parents were teachers), gives him additional perspective on the profession.

The German Program at Hanover High School

But Mr. Goodall-Heising’s popularity with students, parents, and administrators is perhaps best explained by his teaching philosophy. For him, teaching German is more than a profession; it is a vital part of his life. He explains:

“I have always felt that language teaching is much more than a linguistic endeavor—in order to understand people and navigate another culture, you also need to know where people come from historically, their perspective of the world around them, how they do things and what motivates them to do the things they do. To give my students an insight into how Germans ‘tick’ has been the biggest motivation and my biggest success in teaching German. After all, it is also an attempt to help them reflect and understand how they ‘tick’ and how they are perceived by others.”

Academically Focused and Rigorous

Taking German with Mr. Goodall-Heising may be as close to a full-language-immersion experience as you can find without going to a specialized school. Hanover may be a long way from Europe, but Mr. Goodall-Heising does everything possible to break down the distance and make modern Germany "real." This includes use of the interactive Moodle online course management system, where students can access all class information, post questions and ideas, or upload their finished work; establishment of the annual "German Day" at HHS, often with special visitors from Germany; organization of a GAPP exchange with the Kurfürst-Ruprecht-Gymnasium in Neustadt an der Weinstraße in southwest Germany; and field trips to the Goethe-Institut in Boston, covered in the school newspaper, the Broadside.

A field trip to the Goethe-Institut Boston

Students in Mr. Goodall-Heising’s German classes, running from beginner to advanced, and including a German V Honors and an Essentials course he designed and initiated, not only catch the German ‘bug,’ becoming highly enthusiastic about the language and culture. They also get top marks on the National German Exam of the American Association of Teachers of German, earning him a letter of a commendation from the AATG. “Students of German find Uwe to be academically focused and rigorous,” says HHS Principal Deborah Gillespie—praise echoed by fellow HHS language teachers.

Mr. Goodall-Heising enlisted the support of the German Agency for Schools Abroad (ZfA) upon commencing teaching at HHS, leading to a variety of collaborations, from invitations to Lehrerfortbildungen (professional development workshops), to book grants, to expertise and help. As a result, HHS in 2008 became the first American high school to offer the German Language Diploma or DSD—the standard exam for students of German abroad, taken by 46,000 students in 60 countries annually. More recently, HHS became accredited at higher levels of the exam; it is now in the process of being accredited as a DSD II (C1) school. Those who pass this level of the exam have language abilities to qualify them for study at a German institution of higher learning.

Cold Outside, Friendly Inside

The secret to Mr. Goodall-Heising’s success may lie, however, in his contagious passion for the subject matter—which extends beyond the classroom and into the community—and his gift for engaging students of diverse backgrounds. As parent Deborah Burke wrote:

“Herr Goodall-Heising encourages students of all abilities from the most advanced students who come from homes where German is a second language to students who have had no prior experience with the language. This ability to motivate, encourage and instruct with positive discipline and encouragement extends the language beyond those who have a familial connection to the language and broadens the base of people who are exposed to both the language and the culture.”

Students and parents who are lucky enough to travel to Germany with Mr. Goodall-Heising are likely to get a very personal tour of Berlin, where he lived for 20 years before moving to the US. For Goodall-Heising, Berlin is the place to get inspired by Germany, because it reflects how the country is or can be: “Diverse in terms of ethnicity as well as traditions, historically, culturally, architecturally and culinarily rich, stubborn and creative, a little harsh and cold, even unfriendly on its exterior, but warm and really friendly on the inside.”

Mr. Goodall-Heising’s combined passion for teaching and German language and culture have proven the ideal mix for building a thriving program in the Upper Connecticut Valley. For this, the German Embassy would like to congratulate him as a 2012 recipient of the Teacher of Excellence Award!