Letter from Mrs. Schmalenberger

Dear Class of 1999,
Congratulations on your graduation! Can it really be that so much time has passed since I met you when you were in the 5th grade! I have very fond memories of our year together, and I was very moved when Susanne Brüne and Sebastian Lange asked me if I would write a letter to you because it meant that you remembered, too.
When I first met my 5th grade class, 5c, I was greeted by your bright and eager faces. Partly you were intrigued by having an American teacher, but I think that you were especially eager because you were venturing into a new, more grown-up world at the Gymnasium. You were curious and eager to learn, as was I, and we did indeed learn a lot from each other that year. But I learned more than German, and you learned more than English and about Teenage-Mutant-Ninja-Turtles, Halloween jack-o’-lanterns, Rudolph-the-Red-Nosed-Reindeer and valentines. It was really about appreciating differences and similarities and through that, taking a new look at our own identities. Even as young as you were, you often made comments about how I was different, and you showed your appreciation with little gifts and by inviting me to your class party!
Do you remember the article in the WAZ that featured me as the American exchange teacher at Heinrich-Heine-Gymnasium? I believe it was titled „Ein Schlüsselerlebnis“, and it was accompanied by a picture of me bent down, looking through a keyhole and trying to figure out how to use a German key! You giggled and thought that it was pretty silly. Well, I did, too, but I also found it to be very symbolic: as a foreigner I experienced very intensely how there is more than one way to open a door—to solve a problem, to view the world. It really was a key experience in my life, meaning a highlight as well as an opening or expansion of the mind. It was one that I did not want to see come to an end and one that I wanted to share. Mr. Wüsthoff felt the same way about his experiences in Vancouver, and that is why we created the exchange between our schools. I was so pleased that so many of you were able to participate in the exchange in 1997 and have that kind of Schlüsselerlebnis.
Now, as you graduate, I hope that you enter the next stage of your lives with the same eagerness that you brought to Heinrich-Heine-Gymnasium and that you seek out and continue to grow from many Schlüsselerlebnisse.

With my very best wishes,

Robbie Schmalenberger