This week ends officially the summer break, and we head back to North Park University. Tuesday is our traditional Gathering Day — we have breakfast and then the President (which is now “three” as we continue our search for a new one) gives a “state of the union” address. But, I will miss Gathering Day as I will be doing the Faculty Retreat for Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis.
But, in thinking about going back to school, my mind is drawn to my teachers, and I want to talk about my two favorite junior high and high school teachers. Frau Meinders and Herr Kurr. These two German teachers, the first of whom I had in junior high and the second for four classes in high school, were simply wonderful influences in my life. They gave me a love for German and a foundation for understanding languages. They loved us and they were enthusiastic teachers. Of course, they occasionally wore the obligatory Dirndl and Lederhosen to give German culture a boost.
I think of what they gave us all — and they built a great German program at our high school. Wasn’t it odd that my son’s high school German teacher in Libertyville, Frau Krupp, was a student of Herr Kurr, who taught Frau Krupp and me in Freeport, IL? I know why. He inspired us to love the culture and the language, to be fair and respectful to one another in class, and to have a load of fun doing it. Class was just as often breaking into laughing as it was being led into the depths of human miseries — good grief, in one year we read a bundle of those WW2 German existentialists like Thomas Mann, Berthold Brecht, and Gerhard Hauptmann — Bahnwaerter Thiel. I remember reading Frank Kafka’s story about the fellow who turned into a turtle — or something like that. And we read and read and spoke and spoke.
Herr Kurr’s class, and Frau Meinders cheering us all on, gave me the ability to speak German, and it stood me in good stead when I spent two summers in Austria (during college years) with Greater Europe Missions — I got to preach in German! And when I got to seminary I could read German commentaries — and I still read them — all because of Herr Kurr.
I’ve seen both of them occasionally since, but they live with me, as all good teachers live with us.
And I can still sing some of those crazy songs Herr Kurr taught us: “Auf die schwaebische Eisenbahn, gibt gar viele Haltstatione, Stuttgart, Ulm und Bieberach, Mecklesbeure Durlesbach …” or something like that.