Ever since Daniela Bellin spent a month in the United States as a teenager on an exchange program, the German-born wanted to come back, and now that she has granted her wish by coming to teach at the Brookwood School, she will stay “as long as I can.”
“It really is like a dream come true,” said Bellin, who teaches at Brookwood’s German immersion program. “I’ve loved (the United States) since day one, and it’s always felt like home.”
“It’s great that everyone is trying to be cheerful and grateful (here),” Bellin said. “Germans are very honest, and they’ll tell you how they feel if they’re not in a good mood, even if you don’t want to hear about it.
While some Germans may dismiss this American friendliness as “superficial,” Bellin appreciates it and is keen to share her positive attitude with her students, she said. “It’s my duty, as a teacher,” to do that, no matter what kind of day she’s having.
Bellin wanted to form deeper relationships with her students in Germany, but many resisted because children there are more inclined to try to blend in and keep personal details to themselves, she said. Here, however, the students “are not afraid to show you who they are”, and Bellin responds in the same way.
“Relationship building is one of the fundamental principles of Dalton Public Schools,” said Caroline Woodason, director of academic support for the system. Students “can learn more when they know that we (as educators) care about them.”
Bellin’s first exposure to the United States came when she was in 11th grade, spending four weeks near San Diego, and in 2014 her parents built a house in Fort Myers, Florida, she said. . “I was very involved” in that, and she then applied to Checkpoint Charlie, a program through which Dalton Public Schools – and other systems – can access a list of hand-selected, ready qualified teachers. to move to America.
Although Salt Lake City is also a possibility for Bellin, Georgia’s warmer climate, as well as the warmth of staff members at Dalton and Brookwood Public Schools, led her to choose this position, he said. she stated. Her work was not done, however, as the COVID-19 pandemic added layers of complexity to the visa process, but she was able to obtain her permit and begin her duties for the 2021-22 academic term.
Bringing native Germans to Dalton to teach the language is a “win-win” because not only are these educators obviously gifted linguistically, but they understand the culture of this country better than a non-native would. ever could, and teaching students culture is a central part of German education, Woodason said, “It’s been very successful.”
According to Claire Kyzer, lead teacher of the Brookwood School’s German Immersion Program, students in bilingual immersion programs like Brookwood’s German Program can not only speak, read and write two languages, but they demonstrate higher levels academic achievement and appreciation of other cultures. “The more we study this, the more benefits we see.”
“It opens their minds and makes it easier to relate,” Bellin said. “They understand a lot of things.”
Students immersed in a second language will also have an easier time learning other languages, if they wish, she said.
“They’ll see the similarities, and it’s hardwired into their brains.”
While teachers in Germany are more or less on their own, Bellin felt “very supported” by her fellow teachers at Brookwood, and she appreciates the “team” model, she said. Principal Meleia Bridenstine was also “super nice, amazing and always gives me a good feeling”.
Bellin was a jazz and pop singer in Germany, and her band made several television appearances, but a musician’s income varies greatly from month to month, so she turned to music. education, she said. “I have always taught”, as a vocal coach, and educators are well paid in Germany, not only with a salary, but also with benefits such as health care.
However, in Germany, “teaching is ‘work,'” and while compliments fill the air at Brookwood, “awkward silence” is the predominant soundtrack when German educators are “in an elevator together”, Bellin said with a chuckle. “Teaching is my whole life, and I love coming (to school) here.”
Bellin has visited her parents in Florida several times since she moved here, and they were “very impressed” when they visited Brookwood during a trip to Dalton in November, she said . German schools don’t have the same technology as a school like Brookwood because ‘all I had was a blackboard and some books’ in Mainhardt, a ‘little village’ about 30 minutes from Stuttgart .
“Just getting it working (in Germany), so I can teach without any (of this technology, but having it) makes it a lot easier,” she said. “Students are more motivated with all this cool stuff.”
American students are also fortunate to have readily available in-house support staff, such as speech pathologists, she said. In Germany, “you have to (find and access these resources) on your own”.
Because of her musical training and vocal history, “I sing a lot with my students,” and her American students are excited to join her, while her German students would try to avoid singing and performing, he said. she declared. “Here they are extroverted and performative.”
Her students were fascinated by the photos she showed them of Germany, and she plans to share more elements of the culture, including food, which is one thing she misses, especially “sausage liver and German bread,” she said. “You can get it” in some stores here, and “it’s OK, but it’s not the same”.
She also found her Brookwood students more “respectful” than her German learners, she said.
“Here they listen to their teachers.”