Enthusiasm, Expertise Fuel German Courses


Jack Moeller, Sports Editor

The only German teacher in the Acalanes Union High School District (AUHSD), David Blumberg, is the head of the Foreign Languages Department, and has been teaching at Campolindo for 18 years.

Over 30 years ago, Blumberg found a new passion when he enrolled in a German language course. “I started when I was a freshman at Gilroy High School. One of the things that got me into taking German was doing something out of the ordinary,” he said.

“From a pretty early age, I played the piano. I loved classical repertoire. Some of my favorite composers were Bach, Beethoven, Schumann, and Mozart, all of which were German. Because I was so interested in classical music, I also wanted to learn something about the [German] language and culture,” Blumberg said.

After finishing high school, Blumberg studied at UC Berkeley as an undergraduate. He originally wanted to major in chemical engineering, but decided to switch majors to German.

“For both chemistry and chemical engineering, interestingly enough, you had to take a certain number of classes in German. So, I continued to take German partially to fulfill that requirement, and ultimately, it turned out that I was not interested in completing my degree in chemical engineering,” he said.

A trip to Germany also lured him into the study of a foreign language. “The thing that sealed my decision sign was when I went to Germany and studied abroad my junior year. It was when I came back that I switched my major to German, and it was easy, because I still was able to graduate that year,” he said.

During his time in Germany, Blumberg learned much about the language, and improved his skills dramatically. “The experience was great, and I had never been to Europe before. I got there with the knowledge that I was going to be there for an entire year. It was really exhausting when you are in a culture that is not your mother tongue, and you have to think so hard in every interaction. It was really hard the first couple of months, but after a while, it became natural. It was a great adventure,” he said.

According to English teacher Nathan Ward, a close friend of Blumberg, Campolindo’s German teacher is highly qualified. “I know that he has a Ph.D. in German literature, and that he is one of the true experts in his field on this campus. I cannot think of a more educated person to teach German to high school students,” he said.

After Blumberg graduated from Cal, his goal was to become a professor. However, like his studies as an undergraduate, his path changed course again.

“For 6 years, I taught at Cal, and I taught adults and graduate students. My goal was to end up as a professor and teach college students. It was an extremely tough market to get a job as a professor. A lot of the positions that I was applying for there had between 200 and 300 applicants. After trying for a couple of years, a friend of mine notified me that the position at Campo was open,” he said.

Transitioning to high school students was a rewarding challenge. “It was an adjustment. It is different teaching high school kids and the ones at Cal. I grew to love it,” he said.

Blumberg is proud of the program he has built in the district. “One of the most important things that I focus on is the kids learning. It has built this reputation in the community that if the kids come into my program, they will learn German,” he said.

Freshman German 1 student Jay Thomas said that Blumberg is an effective instructor. “He will show us these PowerPoints and will explain them to us. He keeps on teaching until he thinks that the whole class gets it,” he said.

Blumberg believes there must be balance between aggressive studies and creating opportunities for students to have fun. “It is a balance. You do not want to lose track of the class, but I want to have a good attitude about the class that makes it fun. I like to do certain jokes and skits. One of the key things is being able to laugh with the students,” he said.

“He is funny, sarcastic, and very smart. With all of those things combined, this creates an enjoyable [learning environment],” Ward said.

According to Thomas, Blumberg teaches more than just language skills. “He makes it [learning] fun because he really inherits [sic] German culture into the class. We do not learn just about the language, but about Germany and Europe,” he said.

According to Blumberg, he picked up much of his teaching style from his own high school teacher. “He had a really good way of expressing his enthusiasm for the language. He really loved the language and the culture. He was able to give us his knowledge in a way that would make us enthusiastic. Ideally, I inherited that from him,” he said.

While German programs in neighboring districts have declined or disappeared, Blumberg’s continues to thrive. “Being the only one is unique, which is a shame to some degree, because when I started, there was German at Acalanes and Las Lomas. Those programs unfortunately have disappeared,” he said.

Ward says the German programs success is a result of Blumberg’s expertise and enthusiasm. “I think it shows his ability to engage students in a way that makes them very interested an excited to explore something that they might not have considered. It also speaks to his very high ability as a teacher. He is a brilliant guy, and is very passionate about German,” he said.

Blumberg admits that it is difficult to keep the program running. “It has been an ongoing challenge. When I first started 18 years ago teaching here, the classes were smaller. I was hired with the expectation that I would build a German program,” he said.

According to Thomas, the reputation of the program is enticing. “I heard great things about Mr. Blumberg and I thought why not take German? It has been great so far. Mr. Blumberg has taught me a lot. I did not think that I could learn this much is such a short time span,” he said.

Blumberg actively promotes his courses. “For the last 10 years, I have sent a letter to all of the families of the incoming freshmen. That makes a difference, because it advertises the program, and gives many reasons of why studying German is a good idea,” he said.

Thomas said that the letter draws awareness to the program, which is important. “I think that is is very important to get kids aware. Everyone takes either Spanish or French in middle school, but if they know that there is German, at least coming from JM [Joaquin Moraga], they will be more likely to change their language,” he said.

“The thing about foreign languages is that you have to have a good teacher. To build a program, it is really hard. There are not that many German teachers around, and the fact that we have him here is great,” Thomas added.