Laura Miltner, who teaches Georgia’s first German dual immersion program at Ashford Park Elementary School, was honored as the Georgia Department of Education’s World Language Educator of the Month in January.

“Truly, without the selfless and dedicated service of teachers like [Miltner], children would not be complete,” said Patrick Wallace, a department representative, according to a press release.

Laura Miltner.

In Georgia dual language programs, the students spend at least half of their school day in the target language and the other half-day in English, according to the Georgia Department of Education website.

“Frau Miltner has the herculean task of getting 52 kindergartners to begin understanding and speaking German,” a parent said in a letter nominating Miltner for the award. “… While all of our teachers are fantastic, the work Frau Miltner takes on to get these children ready for a more demanding academic load should be recognized.”

Miltner has been teaching at Ashford Park in Brookhaven for five years and has been a teacher for over 20 years.

Q: How does teaching a new language to such young students change the process?

A: I believe in starting young and giving these children a real chance to master a second language. Teaching immersion German in kindergarten has demanded a whole new restructuring of my teaching skills. Let’s just say not every lesson I have taught was a complete success. I am always learning. I enjoy the challenge tremendously. Where else can you see such massive growth and development? The hugs are nice too!

Q: What are you most proud of in your career?

A: I am very proud of being part of the German Immersion Program at Ashford Park. I believe that immersion language learning is a great way to develop flexibility in the brain, promote cultural understanding, as well as seamlessly learn a second language. I have also felt very proud when former students write me a letter in German from Germany!

Q: What do you want to see in your students?

A: I want them to feel comfortable experimenting with language. I want them to be inquisitive, open to other cultures, ask lots of questions, listen, think, work hard and love learning! I would, of course, love to see them all go on to visit, study in, and/or live in a German-speaking country. I would like for them to establish relationships with native speakers. My time in Germany and the friendships I have made there have been such an important part of my life.

Miltner teaches a class. (Special)

Q: Do you have any special programs you use?

A: I have created many materials because teaching kindergarten math and science in German to non-native speakers is so specialized. What we do here is so different than traditional language learning classes and also the students are younger than most second language learners, so I haven’t been able to find the content I need in German. The German Immersion teachers all work very hard creating materials and piecing the curriculum together from many sources.

Q: What is your favorite memory at your school?

A: It always thrills me when a student starts to put together his or her own sentences in German. The parents are also so supportive and kind here. There have been many times when they overwhelmed me with their kindness.

Q: Why are you most interested in German?

A: German-speaking countries play a huge part in world economics, science, technology, the arts and politics. I recently saw very impressive statistics in how much learning German can increase earning potential. The German community is growing in Georgia. The number of German companies here is always growing. Chamblee Middle School, Kittredge [Magnet School] and Chamblee [Charter High School] have award-winning German programs preparing a place for our students.

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