Liz Kaulard: 2011 Teacher of Excellence Award Winner


Soccer is just one of many tools Liz Kaulard has used to attract students to her German program, one of the largest in the country, at Esperanza High School in Anaheim, California.

Liz Kaulard
Liz Kaulard's German program is one of the largest in the country.© Liz Kaulard

When Jürgen Klinsmann comes to your school, spends a couple of hours coaching soccer players, allows students to interview him, and talks about the importance of learning foreign languages, it makes a big impression. There is coverage in The Orange County Register, Los Angeles Times, Die Welt, and on German radio program ARD Hörfunk. The community is talking and thinking, “Soccer is fun, and German is a language I’d like to be learning.”

The visit of the famous soccer coach was a highlight of Liz Kaulard’s more than 25 years teaching German at Esperanza High School in Anaheim, California. Klinsmann came in 2003 and helped to generate public awareness of the Transatlantic Soccer Bridge, a program combining passion for soccer and German language, which Kaulard coordinated in Southern California. From 2001-2008, she organized two tournaments per year, delegated tournament responsibilities, wrote and sent press releases, and raised funding from various organizations.

Kaulard not only successfully organized the tournaments. Her ability to forge a close connection between the soccer and German programs enabled the Esperanza team to prevail in the tournament three times, winning it a free trip to Germany. Not bad as a motivation for learning German!

Soccer is just one of many vehicles Kaulard has used to build her German program into one of the largest, most popular programs in the entire country. On top of serving as Department Chair of World Languages since 2000, she has used middle school recruitment promotions, innovative teaching methods including TPRS (Teaching Proficiency Through Reading and Storytelling), exchanges through Friendship Connection, and modern technology to strengthen the position of German at her school. As a result, enrollment rose from 100 students in 2002 to 380 students in 2009—an impressive feat in a region with a strong Hispanic presence and competition over funding.

Beyond the Soccer Bridge

Though the Soccer Bridge no longer exists as such, more recent initiatives such as the “do Deutsch—Get kick out of it!” program sponsored by the German Embassy, hosted in part by Esperanza High School, and the soccer section within the Step into German website of the Goethe-Institut (co-founded by Kaulard), show that “Fußballfieber” can successfully be leveraged for encouraging German-learning.

Watch the “Step into German” video about Esperanza High School

Her German program proved so popular that when the new Yorba Linda High School opened in 2009, Kaulard’s colleague Simone Müller was able to start off with four sections of German. The two high schools, taken together, now have 500 German students. “The German program is doing well in this district,” Kaulard says.

Originally from Monschau, Germany, a small town close to the borders of Belgium and the Netherlands, Kaulard studied to become a teacher at the University of Aachen. After teaching in Germany for a few years, she came to California in 1979 and received her California teaching credentials at the University of California, Irvine. She also has a master’s degree from Azusa University and has been teaching at Esperanza since 1986.

iPads, Macbooks, and projectors

So, how does Kaulard go about attracting students to German?

“I try to demystify it. Make it fun. Manageable. Easy. Work in communicative types of situations. We celebrate every success kids have, remain positive. Whenever we have a program like the Soccer Bridge, whatever program there is, we participate,” she says.

iPads can’t hurt either. Kaulard’s students have access to 10 of the devices, as well as 16 Macbooks, thanks to Esperanza being named a Partnership School (PASCH) by the German government, and the associated 26,000 euro grant. In addition, the grant provided for LCD projectors, cameras, digital voice recorders, and other tools to modernize German instruction in the digital age.

Auf nach München!

During the summer of 2012, as part of her prize as a winner of the German Embassy Teacher of Excellence Award, Kaulard traveled to Munich for a three-week seminar on using the PASCH website for teaching German as a foreign language.

While in the Bavarian capital, Kaulard was inspired by the excellent lectures and workshops given by teachers who were all experts on their respective fields. With the other German teachers from all over the world, she enjoyed German beer in the various Biergärten of Munich and visited regional attractions such as the Nymphenburg Palace and the UNESCO World Heritage Altstadt (old town) of Regensburg.

Looking back on an eventful and inspiring time, Kaulard returned to California looking forward to showing her students the “modern, future-orientated, European Germany” she loves so much.

“It was my calling to be a German teacher, and I put my heart and soul into this job. The award is recognition for all I’ve done promoting German, promoting Germany, touching students’ lives.” Kaulard says. “But I also feel that I’m not any more special than other teachers. We have a lot of really good teachers.”

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