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Innovative language teacher wins national award

July 17th, 2014

An innovative idea to combine language with dance has helped one inspirational teacher to win the German Consulate Teacher of the Year Award.

Helen Smail, Head of the German Department at Haberdashers’ Monmouth School for Girls, was presented with the prestigious prize during a glamorous event at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in London on Thursday (July 3).

Her unique approach to teaching, dedication and passion for the subject put Mrs Smail above all other nominees for the national accolade.

She said: “I’m absolutely thrilled.

“It was a real surprise because I didn’t know I would get anything.

“The award is for setting standards of excellence in teaching German as a foreign language in the UK.”

“At AS level and A level, language uptake is decreasing, but not at this school,” she added. Mrs Smail’s boundless enthusiasm for teaching German has proved infectious at HMSG, and resulted in her working together with the dance department to combine the two subjects.

“We try to inspire the girls and help them to understand why there is a need to learn German.

“I worked on a massively innovative and creative, cross curricular project between German and dance.

“We put on the Vorsprung durch Dance, which expressed modern German history through the medium of dance.

“I think that really stood out to judges because it was totally, utterly innovative and sector-leading.”

More than 200 teachers and representatives from the education and language teaching sectors from all over the UK joined the celebrations, hosted by German Ambassador Dr Peter Ammon.

Mrs Smail, who has taught the subject for 31 years, was inspired by the speech given by keynote speaker Baroness Coussins of Whitehall Park, Head of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Modern Languages.

She added: “The Baroness gave an exceptionally good speech on the current position of languages and the importance of learning German from the point of view of the economy.

“German businesses are crying out for support and the German language has been neglected over the last few years.

“It would mean a lot if we could help other schools to increase their German uptake.

“I love teaching, I feel just as enthusiastic about the job now as I did when I started.”

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