SALEM, N.H. — After students go home on Fridays, German teacher Karen Cox is working with a group of adults to teach them German.
"Ish heisse Karen," Cox says to greet visitors, hoping they will repeat her German when introducing themselves. She likes teaching the functional and conversational German to her students.
Cox was named the 2020 New Hampshire World Language Teacher of the Year and Educator of the Year by the Greater Salem Boys & Girls Club. The awards come at a time where Cox, 47, feels at home in the Salem district. She began teaching at the high school in 2000, and is really thankful that the local community has rallied around her through the Boys & Girls Club honor.
Playing school as a child, Cox knew she always wanted to be a teacher. It wasn't until high school where she first started taking a foreign language that she knew what subject she wanted to specialize in. That Spanish teacher brought stories of travels around the world to the central Maine town Cox grew up in.
It wasn't until her junior year in high school when Cox got a chance to study abroad in Germany that she took a German class. She's certified to teach both, though her German is stronger, she said.
Studying abroad in the fall of 1989, Cox got to Germany just before the Berlin Wall fell. Being in Germany at that historic moment really resonated with Cox, and has followed her through her teaching. Her students learn about German culture, history and the language.
Learning a language is also learning about a culture, she emphasized. Cox is able to teach her students about her experiences around the globe along with the language.
"I'm doing my absolute best to bring the outside world into the classroom," she said. She emphasized the important things to teach are conversational German because she wants her students to see the language's use.
"We can't be preparing kids for a 21st century career when we are not making learning a language a priority," Cox said. Both national defense and the economy are dependent on speaking to people around the globe, she pointed out.
When advising students on what language to take she reminds students that German is the second most spoken language in Europe after English, and talks about its powerful economy.
Cox is thankful when her students aren't deterred from learning a language, and hopes that they can take as many as possible in their academic careers. She took three languages — Spanish, German and a low-level French class — her senior year of high school and doesn't regret it because they have all aided in her travels.
"If you can learn English you can learn a language," Cox said.