The Texas State German Contest is announcing it's first newsletter and 40 year anniversary. By Gail Cope
A CELEBRATION: Looking back and remembering
In this first issue of the Texas State German Contest Newsletter, it is appropriate to look back to where we started 40 years ago and remember our purpose, our goals, and the struggles to create the system we have today. It is also important to assess how the contest can be made better and continue to be relevant. We are the envy of many German teachers in other states, but we cannot rest on our laurels. We must also bring new teachers in and help them not to be overwhelmed. Retired teachers still have much to share and can be mentors as well as judges. There is a repository of knowledge that should not be lost as people leave the profession, but it should be written down or passed down in some fashion.
Mary ElBeheri and Gail Cope saw the need for something better than what was available at the time that would be exciting, interesting and spark creativity. Going beyond the textbook to make German the language to take for students who wanted something more special. They brainstormed for several years and worked to get events at the state level like the Winterfest contest in the north Texas area that Glenda Keilstrup had developed at UTA. Yet the resistance from the old system was strong and unwilling to make major changes to what they saw as successful and similar to what the other languages were doing. You cannot imagine the stir it caused when Mary and Gail handed out information flyers about the new contest they were starting the following year. But many others decided to take the leap of faith with them, and within just a few years there were 3 regional contests as well as the state level with coordinating rules and cooperation that led to the 40 years of growth we have seen and hope to continue for future generations.
Of course, new events have been added as old ones have been deleted. Our rules are that at least 2 of the regions must have an event for it to become a state qualifier. That is why some regional contests have events that others do not. For instance, the Pretzel Eating Relay and Root beer Guzzle are still held at Winterfest, but not the other 2 regions. We have added pop music groups as an event in all 3 regions. Some years a region will volunteer to test an event to see how it would work out.
The 2 biggest tests for the Texas State German Contest came with the GREAT ICEARAMA 2015 and the COVID 19 PANDEMIC. Both events forced our director, Jennifer Christianson, to incredible efforts to make it possible to have the competition. The state board worked on Zoom to come up with a way to hold a virtual contest, since they were unwilling to give up on having something this year. The virtual State competition of 2021 was remarkably interesting, and successful due to the efforts of many people who stepped up and gave so freely of their time and talents. It may even give us ideas for flexible judging and competing for the future.
So it is with gratitude that I look back on the last 40 years. The memories are sometimes overwhelming, but many of them make me smile, lots of them make me laugh, and through it all I remember that it was all worth it. What a wonderful group of dedicated teachers and volunteers to have known and worked with for such a great goal.
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