Chugiak High School’s German language teacher knows how to make learning fun.


“Whenever she teaches us, she’s interactive and she has a really good way of explaining things,” said ninth grade student Rebekah Smith.


Kristi Senden, KTVA 11’s Teacher of the Week, said learning a new language can seem like a tall task for a high school student. Her mission is to reverse that thinking.


“I think the big key is to break down their fear,” Senden said. “So I try to keep it very comfortable because once teenagers, especially, are nervous … then they don’t say anything.”


Instead, Senden encourages them to speak up.


“Whether we like it or not she’ll try to get us to interact with her, like speaking and stuff in front of the class,” Smith said.


Senden’s made sure her students also know the value of language, beyond speaking it. She once asked her class if German was relevant; her student’s reaction surprised her.


“And they said, ‘It helps you learn about other cultures or maybe become more tolerant’ and they just said everything I would hope that students would get from a world language class, so I was like, ‘Awesome,’” Senden said.


In Germany for her grandparents’ wedding anniversary, Senden first fell in love with the language when she was 12 years old. After college she “ski bummed” in Austria before returning to Alaska to teach.



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