Cora Hofstetter, North County High School, Maryland
Enlarge image Cora Hofstetter, World and Classical Languages Instructor at North County High School, Glen Burnie, MD (© Sophie B. Lehmann) Cora Hofstetter has been a well-respected teacher of German levels I-III as well as Spanish I & II at North County High School in rural Anne Arundel County, between DC and Baltimore, for the past four years. But that is just beginning.
A former Fulbright Teaching Scholar who taught in the Vogtland, Saxony, Hofstetter earned a Master’s degree in Foreign Language Education and is currently pursuing her doctorate at Middlebury College Language Schools while employed full-time as a high school modern languages teacher. Her instructional practices are research-based and effective.
Hofstetter is a leading voice within the foreign language teaching profession, having delivered her presentation “Oh, the Places You’ll go in the Student Centered Classroom” to packed rooms at both the Maryland Foreign Language Teacher Conference and the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages Conference (ACTFL) in 2014. Having proven such a hit, she was invited to reprise it at ACTFL 2015.
Inside the classroom, Hofstetter is known for her progressive, learner-centered pedagogy, incorporating multiple innovative tools and techniques to approach German language and culture from various angles. “As part of instructing, Ms. Hofstetter uses technology-infused lessons including daily use of a SMART Board as well as Glogster, Google Voice and Poll Everywhere,” notes North County High School Principal Julie Cares.
Hofstetter “consistently sets high standards for herself and assesses the efficacy of her teaching practice, then adjusts those practices based on student need,” says Cares. Hofstetter incorporates technology with specific goals in mind, such as giving a window to the German world and making language learning relevant to young minds.
“Technology can be useful in so many ways, but I think it's great how quickly instructors and students can now find authentic materials from the target culture,” she says. “Technology is also such a huge part of our students' lives that it makes sense for us to show them how they can use it to interact with German language and culture.”
While her German classes are rigorous, resulting in high student achievement, they are also fun and popular; under Hofstetter’s tenure, the North County High School German program has grown from six sections of German to eight or nine, depending on the year. Students in her classes learn vocabulary planning a “survivor”-style trip to Germany, earning points for packing the right supplies (in German), and losing them if business is conducted in English.
“One of her classes loves to sing and you can often hear students singing songs that they have made up,” says colleague Katrina Griffin, World and Classical Languages Department Chair. “You can see them in the hallway with cellphones calling Cora’s Google Voice phone number in order to practice interpersonal speaking.”
An English major in college, Hofstetter was often encouraged to become a teacher, but she had no interest in teaching her first language. After spending a year teaching English in Germany through the Fulbright program, however, she realized she enjoyed teaching English culture there. She figured she could do the same if she taught German in the U.S.
“After that experience I became really excited about sharing my passion for the German language and culture with others,” she says.
Hofstetter’s true passion is for cross-cultural education, and so she goes to great lengths to give her students the most authentic experience possible. Together with the German Society of Maryland, she has been instrumental in reinstating a school exchange with Geschwister Scholl Gymnasium in Bremerhaven, thus cultivating the Baltimore-Bremerhaven Sister City relationship.
This, she feels, is her greatest accomplishment.
“When we first started, the exchange was small, but it has grown and we now even have students who want to participate a second time. Everyone asks when the next group of German students will come to our school. The school exchange has really grown to become an integral part of our German program.”