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Crailsheim native interning at WHS through May

WORTHINGTON -- For the past 55 consecutive years, Worthington High School has hosted a student taking part in a year-long exchange program with its sister city, Crailsheim, Germany.

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Christoph Salinger, a native of Worthington's sister city, Crailsheim, Germany, is student teaching at Worthington High School through the end of this month. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)

WORTHINGTON - For the past 55 consecutive years, Worthington High School has hosted a student taking part in a year-long exchange program with its sister city, Crailsheim, Germany.

This spring, the halls of WHS are being roamed by a towering man with a deep voice, broad grin and a noticeable accent.

Christoph Salinger, born and raised in Crailsheim and now working toward his certification to become an English and geography teacher in Germany, chose to do his third and final internship in an American school. Thanks to friendships forged in recent years with Jean and Jason Johnson and their daughter, former exchange student to Crailsheim Skyla Rautenkranz, Salinger is doing his internship in Worthington.

He arrived in the community Feb. 23, and is staying with the Johnsons while integrating into the local high school. His internship began March 1 and will continue through the end of the school year.

Though much of his time is spent observing teachers - first block with Sam Becker’s AP psychology class and second block with Patrick Mahoney’s AP world history class - his third block of the day is spent co-teaching with Mahoney in a classroom filled with ESL students learning about geography.

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“Sometimes I’m doing the lesson, sometimes he’s doing the lesson, sometimes we’re just both teaching,” Salinger said, noting that he’s already exceeded the six lesson plans he was required to do for his internship.

After fourth block prep, Salinger is usually off to the tennis courts, where he assists with coaching. On days when Worthington hosts a home track meet, he helps them out.

“I want to be involved in as much as I can,” he said.

Salinger is the first Crailsheim resident to do an internship in the Worthington school district, and he hopes he isn’t the last.

“I think it’s a great thing for the whole sister city relationship to not just have the exchange student, but kind of an exchange teacher,” he said.

Salinger’s experience student teaching here is vastly different from the schools he’s attended and interned at in Germany. It took a while to get used to the block schedule, having students in class for 90 minutes instead of 45 minutes.

He said he was also surprised that the Pledge of Allegiance is recited each day at WHS, and noted that school in Germany is “way stricter” - particularly in regard to student cell phone use and dress code.

“Here, I think more than 50 percent (of students) wear sweatpants to school,” he said.

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Salinger also noted that in Germany, there are three different schools - one for students who excel, one for students who are average learners and one for students who need more guidance. In American high schools, those students can all be in the same classroom, making it a challenge to keep the above-average students interested while not losing the below-average learners.

Though the schedule is vastly different, kids are still kids.

“I like the kids. I think the kids like me,” Salinger said with a smile. “I think the experience I’ve gained here with English input and output is perfect for my language and developing it.”

He’s expanded his English vocabulary and can speak conversationally with students and teachers, which will help him as an English teacher once he begins his career in Germany.

While in the classroom, Salinger is using the opportunity to promote the Worthington-Crailsheim student exchange program, which began in 1956, with students, while also encouraging teachers to visit Germany and Crailsheim.

“I’m hoping more are willing to go,” he said.

Salinger first met the Johnsons a few years ago through his cousin, Vanessa Pazurek, Crailsheim’s 2014-2015 student ambassador to Worthington. When the Johnsons returned to Germany last July to take part in the 70th anniversary celebration of the sister city relationship, it was Jean Johnson who suggested Salinger intern at Worthington.

WHS teacher Becker, who was also on that trip - but didn’t meet Salinger during the visit - helped coordinate his internship with the school district.

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“It was pretty easy to communicate with the school,” Salinger said. “Ms. Becker did all of the things that needed to be done here, but getting the visa was a different part of it. It took me three months, at least, to get the visa, and it is expensive.”

Thankful for the work Becker did - and the opportunity to intern at WHS - Salinger said he loves it here. In addition to staying with the Johnsons for free, the couple has also taken him to the Twin Cities and Sioux Falls, S.D. He’s attended numerous Minnesota United soccer games, as well as Sioux Falls Stampede ice hockey games. He also went to a Timberwolves game.

This is Salinger’s third visit to the United States, but first time in Worthington. His previous excursions were in 2013 to Las Vegas, Nev., and the entire West Coast, and in 2015 to New York, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, Pa.

He has scheduled three weeks at the end of the school year for additional traveling. His girlfriend will arrive here June 8, and they will visit Chicago before flying to Las Vegas, then renting a car and travelling to Hoover Dam, the Grand Canyon and Lake Tahoe. Ultimately, they will arrive in San Francisco, Calif., and follow the coast to Los Angeles and San Diego before leaving for Germany June 29.

Salinger represents the third generation in his family to teach, following in the footsteps of his mother (an elementary teacher), his grandmother and an uncle, who teaches culinary skills.

Once he returns to Germany in late June, he will resume his studies at the university in Wurzburg. He has three semesters left before he will take his certification exams. Then, the search will be on to find a job.

“You never know where there is a job to teach,” he said. “I really love Crailsheim, so you never know.”

 

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Christoph Salinger, a native of Worthington's sister city, Crailsheim, Germany, is student teaching at Worthington High School through the end of this month. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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