Grayslake North shares new German teacher with Grayslake Central

Grayslake North and Grayslake Central now share a cumulative teacher after the German program at District 127 was discontinued. 

Central teacher Fanka Dimitrov is now a teacher at North as well with this being her third year in the district. 

“I started teaching at Grayslake North because the structure of the German program changed and we had to consolidate between the two schools,” Dimitrov said. “They decided it was not sustainable given the number of students that we have in our district. We just didn’t have the numbers to support three languages.”  

District 127 has decided to cut the German program out of the offered language curriculum.

“The decision was a district decision. I was not a part of that decision. The decision made was that we do not need three languages, we already have Spanish and French,” said Grayslake North language department chair Valerie Padgett-Krause. 

The number of students at Grayslake North has gone down since the school first opened, and the number of students does not allow for three different language options. 

“Our enrollment went down. We are currently at 1,300 students. When I came here it was 1,600 students. That was about 14 years ago. We lost about 300 students. There is a huge decline in enrollment for all of the classes, whether it be kids aging out or moving away,” Padgett-Krause said.

Dimitrov has earned high praise from Central and has worked hard to make a smooth transition to North for her students. 

“Even though she is another new person in the building, in front of students she is very collaborative. She has worked with every other German teacher that the North students have had,” said Central’s language department chair Dominique Geocaris. “She is incredibly interested in ensuring that what she’s able to do for the students is helping them either achieve success on the seal of biliteracy or on the AP exam. So as it is, even though it is a new person, she’s been working very very hard the last couple of years to make sure she is connecting with what has been done at North in the past.”

Dimitrov is not the only teacher to travel between districts. She talked to other teachers to help her understand how things will go. 

“This is going to be new for me this year. I have spoken to different teachers that have traveled between both buildings, like Madame Trybula, who teaches French, and Señora Baker, who teaches Spanish,” Dimitrov said. “I mean, other teachers do it, and it seems to work well for them.” 

While learning is virtual, it should be easier for students to be able to connect than what would happen in a normal environment. Dimitrov’s schedule is built so that when school is back in person, students will still be able to easily communicate with her.

“Both Señora Padgett-Krause and I, as well as the associate principals, built the schedule so students have access to the classes, and then Frau travels between the afternoon time frame so she’s able to meet with students before class in one building and after class in another,” Geocaris said.

Students find learning while virtual more challenging and do not feel that they have been learning as productively as they had while learning was back in in-person.

“I feel like I have not learned that much in German this year, and that is not due to my teacher. I feel like e-learning severely holds students back from learning or reaching their greatest potential in school,” said senior Lauren Keegan. 

There is a mixture of students in AP German this year who were going to take German 4 or AP German. The two classes were combined and now the students are all taking AP German. 

“I feel like I’m struggling because last year I technically took German 2 twice due to schedule issues, but I was able to also do the German 3 work at the same time,” said senior Laura Czapiewski. “I feel like I’m a bit behind compared to other people, so I would prefer to just take German 4 and not have to worry about AP. Now I feel like I’m way more stressed in German than I should be because German has always been one of my easier classes.”

There were not enough students at North to run both an AP German class along with a German 4 honors class.

“There is this trickle effect. We did not run a German class for freshmen this year, and as each class graduates, the program will trickle out,” Padgett-Krause said. “If there was enough enrollment, it could be possible, but if I were to view it from an economic perspective, it’s just not feasible. We already have three teachers that are traveling between buildings.”

The students in AP German are now on their third German teacher over the four years of the students being in the program. 

“I think having three German teachers has only helped me learn how I learn languages. While in the short year that I spent with each teacher, I grew very fond of each teacher and was very sad when they left. I have learned through my experience with three different German teachers that I learn best by constantly hearing German being spoken during our lessons,” Keegan said.

Although with some of the teachers leaving gaps and overlap in their individual curriculum, having a different teacher every year is not that different from other classes. 

“It’s hard; it’s really hard. To be honest, students have been doing this already. In math, students go teacher to teacher. Same for Spanish and French. It is a rare occasion to only have one teacher,” Padgett-Krause said.

 Students are still getting to know their new German teacher but have a positive impression of her from what they have learned.

“She seems nice. She seems like she knows what she’s doing a lot more compared to our other teachers, especially with AP German. I feel like she’s assigning a lot at once, but I think it will all be okay in the end, and we’re all going to end up learning,” Czapiewski said.

Dimitrov is working on helping her students blend their previous knowledge of German with what needs to be learned for their level of class. This year she is teaching six classes through North and Central.

“I am aware that I need to cover some things for North you haven’t covered and vice versa. I am sure that you have done certain things that I have not done as extensively in my classes. But basically, I teach combining different methods and TPRS, total physical response storytelling, is typically done at the North language department and is a part of something I do,” Dimitrov said.

Many German students loved their previous German teacher and the amount they have learned with her. 

“I loved Frau Dus-Bacic because she had an unmatchable energy and positive attitude that she integrated into her very involved German lessons every day. She is dearly missed,” Keegan said.

Dimitrov taking over Dus-Basic’s job had nothing to do with the previous year’s performance, but was just because there was no need for two different German teachers between the districts.

“I loved Frau Dus. She was really nice, and she was a really good teacher, and she was really patient because I’m really bad at speaking German. She’s never forced me to do it because she knew I was uncomfortable, but she liked it more when I volunteered,” Czapiewski said. 

As of now, the German program is in the middle of being phased out and although there was the hope of it eventually being brought back, it does not appear to be a reasonable decision.

“There isn’t a possibility of it coming back. So these are the last couple of classes that we’ll have for German. There are, however, possibilities to emerge in the German culture with the International Club and the opportunity for you to continue your studies this year. But there aren’t any opportunities for students to take the German program anymore, unfortunately,” Geocaris said.