Art and Lisa Lader, the long-time teachers of German at Aiken High, recently held an awards ceremony for their top students

“We have so many kids who do such a good job,” Art said. “I’m excited about all we’re doing.”

German students Jason Hightower, a senior, and junior Lydia Gerstenberger have served this year as the president and vice president of Delta Epsilon Phi. It’s a national honor society for high school students of German and is administered through the American Association of Teachers of German.

“I love German,” Gerstenberger said and then added with a smile. “Being inducted into Delta Epsilon Phi was a no-brainer. I looked around the other German students, and none of them intimidate me. So I was okay with being in a leadership role, and thought Jason would a good person to work with.”

Hightower has a sense of humor as well: “By coincidence, I also love German.”

For years the Laders have taken groups of students to Germany on an exchange venture. The German students then visit Aiken the following year. Gerstenberger participated in the last trip overseas, where they visited Munich and Nuremberg

“I’d suggest anyone with the opportunity should go,” she said. “You wouldn’t get a chance to be with a Germany family and see how they live and to see country. It helps you become independent on your own and learn to do things for yourself.

Hightower took a different route, literally. With the help of teachers and sponsors, he traveled on his own to Heidelberg to stay with a host family for three weeks and maneuver through the city.

“I was able to go alone and on my first flight,” Hightower said. “When I got off the plane, I asked myself ‘Why did I come here?’ But I’m really glad I went. I met a lot of people who are friends with me on Facebook.”

Several parents attended the ceremony – among them Liz and Daniel Morris, the parents of freshman Daniel.

“He wanted to try German, and (Art) has impacted him in a positive way…He has excelled tremendously, and I attribute that to Mr. and Mrs. Lader.”

Parent Sandra Willis has has two children go through the German program, and now it’s the turn of her daughter, Maggie West, a freshman.

“It’s been a great experience for them, and the Laders have had a big impact on all of them,” Willis said.

The classes have been difficult,” Maggie said, “but the classroom is more fun. There are more activities than reading in a book, along with more interaction and more German conversations.”

Another student, Sophie Nance, has enjoyed the opportunity to learn a different language and have a special skill that others might not.

“With all the grammar, I didn’t know what I was getting into,” she said. “But it really has helped my grammar in English. You really have to have a grasp of learning it. I plan to take German in college.”

Aiken High German Students’ Awards

• Exceptional achievement (“A” students) – Sophia Gerstenberger, Isabella Hill, Mohsin Rizyi, Carolin Abele, Cameron Clamp, Andrew Cota, Lydia Gerstenberger, Sophie Nance, Shannon Mulhall, Elizabeth Grushkowski, Courtney Layden, Savanah Dale, Ali Maclay, Andrew Shumpert, Jacob Sargent, Jesse Carver, Raegan Ferguson, Robert Gwinn, Jacob Kneece, Walker Rounsefell, Ashton Dorman, Daniel Morris, Connor Lanigan, Shaneeka Sheard, Justin Garrison

• Most Enthusiastic – Sophia Gerstenberger, Timothy Siler, Bishop Hare, Holly Turner, Baylee Cullum, Savanah Dale, Ali Maclay, Isabella Hill, Robert Gwinn, Walker Rounsefell, Lucas Turner, A’Nya Walker, Jesse Carver, Sheniyah Thomas, Connor Lanigan, Jacob Sargent, Maggie West, Gretchen Caddell

• Most Improved – Bishop Hare

• National German Exam Gold Awards – Carolin Abele, Mohsin Rizyi, Jacob Sargent, Ali Maclay, Sophia Gerstenberger, Savanah Dale

• National German Exam Silver Awards – Cameron Clamp, Connor Lanigan, Ashton Dorman

• National German Exam Bronze Awards – Daniel Carlisle, Bishop Hare, Justin Garrison,

• National German Exam Achievement Awards – Andrew Shumpert, Daniel Morris, Isabella Hill, Timothy Nelson, Lyda Gerstenberger, Danielle Boerstler, Andrew Cota, Sophie Nance

• Delta Epsilon Phi National Honor Society for high school German students – Carolin Abele, Danielle Boerstler, Matthew Coverson-Springs, Ashton Dorman, Jason Kekacs, Jacob Kneece, Connor Lanigan, Caroline Miller, Daniel Morris, Jacob Sargent, Andrew Shumpert, Maggie West

• Special Recognition – Carolin Abele

Former students describe the present

Three former students of the Laders sent them information about their lives since high school. The current students had the opportunity to read the adults’ experiences.

A 1994 Aiken High graduate, Erin Reindl, studied German and international trade at Clemson University. She later learned Italian and lived there for a year. Reindl has lived in Europe for 16 years and most recently, serves as the global head of information and resources for JWT Communications.

In her travels, both professional and private, she wrote, her capability to communicate in the local language “has been magical. The person with whom I’m speaking instantly sees me differently. An American knows their language!” Reindl went on to proudly point out to the person that she learned that language in the U.S.

She is often saddened when Americans visit her city, dressed as if they are headed to a gym. They appear to have no interest in the culture there. Many Americans seemed almost proud they can only speak English, which they describe as the world’s language.

America is a large country, Reindl wrote, and its citizens never have to leave to experience all kinds of climate zones. Americans don’t realize how other countries view them, and that they’re putting themselves at a disadvantage of not speaking one or more other languages.

“I am doing my part and raising twin girls fluent in French, German and English,” Reindl wrote. “They are open-minded and curious. ... Thank you, Art and Lisa Lader. You were both my inspiration.”

Tim Anderson, a Volkswagen AG engineer, also graduated from Aiken High 20 years ago. The German classes there gave him the basis for continuing his studies in college and traveling through Europe. Even when he got his first job with a Taiwanese company, “Most of our equipment came from Germany or Swiss firms, so I dealt regularly with German engineers and equipment.”

He has spent the last seven years in the automotive industry, and his German language skills have been instrumental in getting him jobs and being successful in them.

“It is definitely an advantage over my monolingual co-workers,” Anderson wrote. “The world is only getting smaller with technology, so foreign languages will grow more important.”

Susan Wilke, a 1995 Aiken High graduate and four-year German student there is employed as a foreign service officer for the U.S. Department of State.

After high school, she majored in German at Indiana University with plans to teach German. Wilke did so for three years in Texas before returning to school – graduating from George Washington University with a masters degree in international affairs. She was then hired by the State Department went on to spend several years as a foreign service officer in Frankfurt, Germany.

Since then, Wilke has been posted in Africa and Washington, D.C. She currently resides in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, where she is a diplomat at the American embassy.