Faculty and Staff, 2014-2015
Dean Ball – Principal
You can email Herr Ball at Ball_Dean@asdk12.org
Herr Ball comes to the Rilke Schule from A.J. Dimond High School with fifteen years of extensive foreign language experience in German, French, and Spanish. During his tenure at Dimond High School, he served as the World Languages Department Chair, a teacher mentor to both colleagues and University of Alaska, Anchorage student teachers, and has organized numerous exchange programs to Bremen, Germany, and most recently San José, Costa Rica.
Herr Ball brings to the Rilke Schule a passion for German culture and language, an enthusiasm for life long learning, as well as a commitment to the implementation of technology. As the Department Chair of World Languages at Dimond, he has experience in budgeting, fund-raising, and program building. Dimond offers five languages and over fifty percent of the student body is enrolled in one or more of those classes.
Herr Ball earned his Masters of Educational Leadership and Master of Arts in Teaching from UAA and his Masters of Education (Counseling) from Boston University. In addition, Herr Ball is an adjunct member of UAA’s German and French Faculty, a member of the AATG (American Association of Teachers of German)/Alaska Chapter, and the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.
Throughout a given school year, he has striven to involve his students in many extra-curricular activities. At German Camp (Lager Nordlicht), he most often has led sessions on Fußball (an ardent Werder Bremen fan) and helped in skit writing and performing. His service as a judge at the Regional and State Declamation Contest has surpassed sixteen years. He is most proud of his students though, some of whom have taken top honors in the state. As a means by which to encourage his students to continue their study of German, he brings them to German Day at UAA. “Deak”, as those who know him best call him, evidently enjoys being busy. When asked what motivates him, he remarked without hesitation, “It’s all about opening doors to the world for kids by providing them with opportunities to achieve success,… now let’s get down to it!” Better stated, “Auf die Plätze, fertig, los!”
Amanda Marley – Secretary
You can email Frau Amanda at Marley_Amanda@asdk12.org
Born in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne England, Amanda first came to the US in 1990 as a long term visitor. She officially moved here in 1994, and worked in retail. She was volunteering at her children’s school a couple of years ago when she saw a flyer about Rilke Schule. You guessed it – She came to volunteer, and never left. Boy are we glad. Amanda is the smiling face (with headgear) you often see in the morning and afternoons answering questions and directing traffic, and at midday on the playground helping the children. In between those times she is tirelessly helping out wherever she is needed, sometimes in the Secretary’s Office, but just as often anywhere else. If you ever need to know where anything in the building or storage units is, ask Amanda, aka the Chief Schlepper.
When she isn’t at Rilke Schule, she enjoys scrapbooking, stamping, knitting, refinishing furniture, and looking after her families menagerie of puppy dogs and other wonderful creatures.
Her favorite word is actually the Yiddish “Schlep”, something she is very good at.
Michael Helgesen – Kindergarten English
You can email Herr Helgesen at Helgesen_Michael@asdk12.org
Michael Helgesen is one of the English kindergarten teachers at Rilke Schule. He has been teaching kindergarten in the Anchorage School District for more than a dozen years. Herr Helgesen learned to speak Spanish and taught in South-Central Los Angeles for four years. He then worked for three years in early childhood at the Providence Hospital Early Childhood Learning Center. Michael has also studied German, Norwegian, French and Russian. He lives in Anchorage with his wife, Yuliya, his two sons, Roos and Alek, and their cat, Rock.
Claudia Bittlingmaier – Kindergarten German
You can email Frau Bittlingmaier at Bittlingmaier_Claudia@asdk12.org
Frau Claudia was born in Schwaebisch Gmuend, in southern Germany. She was raised in that area, and lived there until she was 20 years old. She travels to Germany once a year to visit her family. Almost all of her relatives live there.
She has her Bachelors of Science in Elementary Ed. She taught 5th grade for 3 years on the island of Guam and 6th grade for 10 years at a Title I
school, Taku Elementary, here in Anchorage. This is Frau Claudia’s third year teaching Kindergarten German immersion at Rilke Schule.
In 2007, Frau Claudia took a leave-of-absence from the school district in order to travel to South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana with her husband. En route they visited many local schools and Frau Claudia volunteered regularly at an orphanage in South Africa. While still in South Africa, Frau Claudia became aware of Rilke Schule through e-mails from friends and co-workers at Taku Elementary. She applied for a teaching position, and is excited and happy to now be a member of the Rilke Schule team.
Frau Claudia’s hobbies include motorcycling, gardening, skiing, and traveling. She lives with her husband and their German Shepherd.
Her favorite German word is Knoedel (dumplings). She likes to eat them, too!
Jessica Martin – Kindergarten English
You can email Frau Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org
Frau Martin was born and raised in Zeeland, Michigan. Her family moved to Soldotna, AK when she was a junior in High School.
She received her B.A. in Elementary Education from U.A.A. She student taught in a kindergarten class. That was when she realized that she loved kindergarten! She has spent her first two years teaching Kindergarten at Rilke Schule and loves it!
She enjoys exploring Alaska, as well as traveling overseas (her next stop, Germany!!). She loves to read, scrapbook, bake, and ice skate.
Her favorite German word is “Schade”.
Judith Keihl – Kindergarten German
You can email Frau Keihl at email@example.com.
Judith Keihl-Teekell was born and raised in the beautiful country-side of Oberschwaben (Swabia), a region in the very south of Germany. Adventurous and curious about other cultures, Judith traveled early on and found herself in Alaska after graduating from her German high school (Gymnasium).
She finished two years of studies in Elementary and Middle School Education at the Paedagogische Hochschule in Freiburg, Germany. Rilke Schule had just opened when she looked into a career change to finally pursue her calling as a teacher. Months later, she substituted for Jo Sander’s Kindergarten classes and knew from then on that she
wanted to teach primary grades (German immersion, of course). She has been teaching at Rilke Schule ever since. Received her graduate certificate in Elementary Education from Alaska Pacific University.
She visits her home town once a year and uses the summer break to catch up
with family and friends there. She enjoys skiing, hiking, and spending time with her Bouvier dog Maja. Craft projects and fine arts have always been an interest of hers that she pursues especially during holiday times. She likes to travel inside and outside the United States learning more about history and culture.
Her favorite German word is Lieblings + noun, e.g. Lieblingswort = favorite word, Lieblingsfarbe = favorite color, Lieblingsessen = favorite food……
Kim Nelson – 1st Grade English
You can email Frau Nelson at Nelson_Kim@asdk12.org
She was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and has been living in Alaska since 1985. She studied German in high school and was pretty good at it then, but it has been more years than she cares to admit and, to say the least, it will take a bit of a refresher to uncover what she knows is buried in her brain somewhere. She’s been married to Gary Nelson since 1986. They don’t have any kids or pets, but they have lots of plants. In her spare time (of which she has little), she works on home improvement projects, gardens, crochets, and reads John Grisham books. She also likes to do Sudoku and crossword puzzles.
She received her B.S. in Early Childhood Education from Frostburg State University in Maryland in 1979 and has taken lots of Continuing Education credits, enough for a Masters Degree plus if they counted. She has focused on literacy instruction because learning to read and write is key to a quality education. She taught 1 year (subbing) in Pennsylvania right after college, then took a many-year detour into the legal secretarial field. After moving to Anchorage, She subbed for the Anchorage School District for 2 years before being hired at Klatt Elementary. She taught at Klatt for 9 years (8 years of 1st grade and 1 year of Kindergarten). She then taught at William Tyson Elementary for 5 years, where she taught 1st and 2nd grade classrooms and 2nd grade literacy.
Why she chose teaching as a career:
She loves working with kids — they are fun to be with and it is exciting to watch them grow. Young students make so much progress throughout the year. It’s amazing to see them mature both academically and socially.
Frau Nelson has two favorite German words, Schadenfreude and Kreutzwortraetzel
Heather Tarrant – 1st Grade German
You can reach Frau Tarrant at firstname.lastname@example.org
Frau Tarrant is from Holt, Michigan. She attended Central Michigan University and graduated in December 2009 with a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education. Her Majors are German K-12 and Social Studies 6-12. Her Minor is History 6-12. She studied abroad twice. She spent a semester in Bielefeld, Germany and attended the Padaegogosiche Hochschule Karlsruhe for a year in Karlsruhe Germany on a full scholarship from the Federation of German American Clubs. She Student taught at Morley-Stanwood High School German 1 and World History.
When she studied abroad in Germany, she lived with a host family the first time, and lived in student housing the second time.
She loves to travel and see things she has never seen before and takes tons of pictures of those things. Her favorite German word is Zwiebel, which means onion and is really fun to say!
Elizabeth Cooper – 1st and 2nd Grade German
You can email Frau Cooper at Cooper_Elizabeth@asdk12.org
Frau Cooper is originally from Great Falls, MT. She taught grades 7 – 12 German, and also taught for 2 years in a rural school in Victor, MT. Prior to that she earned an M.A. from Ohio State University and taught Russian to college freshmen. She speaks German and Russian, plus a smattering of Polish, Serbo-Croatian and Spanish.
She is an avid cross-country skier and hiker. In addition, She is married with two daughters at Rilke Schule. They hunt and fish as a family; her primary role in hunting has been to run around with the pheasant decoy to train the dog. She is excited to be a part of Rilke Schule and to finally make it to Alaska!
Tyler Schlagenhauf – 1st Grade English
You can email Herr Schlagenhauf at email@example.com
Tyler Schlagenhauf is a 1st grade English teacher at Rilke Schule, who also fills the administrative role as Teacher-In-Charge. He holds a M.Ed in Administration and has taught in rural Alaska before landing at Rilke Schule in 2010. He lives in Anchorage with his wife Amanda and two huskies Qiluk and Kiska. Tyler is an avid participant in the community volunteering for Equine Assisted Therapy in the summers, Spirit of Youth, and The Alaska Marine Conservation Council. He has also studied the German language at The University of Leipzig participating in “Sommersprachkurs” in the summer of 2012. This summer he will be traveling to Tuebingen, Germany to participate in the “Diversity in Education 2014” seminar.
Lynette Brickwell – 1st Grade English
You can email Frau Brickwell at firstname.lastname@example.org
Frau Brickwell grew up in Alaska. She has two Bachelors Degree; one in Business and one in Elementary Education. They were both completed at University of Anchorage. In 2012 she earned a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from University of Phoenix. Frau Brickwell comes to Rilke Schule and the ASD from Grace Christian School. She began teaching at Grace 2002. Prior to that she was home with her two boys. She has taught first, third, and fourth grades.
Frau Brickwell has recently celebrated her 26th wedding anniversary. Her boys are 19 years and 22 years old. She also owns three daschunds. Frau Brickwell loves to run, hike, bike and most anything else that gets her outdoors. She also enjoys reading and quilting when not planning for her lessons.
Natalie Hayes – 2nd Grade English
You can email Frau Hayes at hayes_natalie@a
Frau Hayes grew up in a small town in Texas, and has lived all over Texas and in Colorado. She has a B.A. in English and an M.A. in Christian Education. After eight years of working in youth ministry as a church staff member and substitute teaching in the public schools, she decided school is what made her happy, and she became a full time classroom teacher. Frau Hayes has taught kindergarten, second grade and English/Language Arts in Grades 6-11 and coached dance/drill teams. She uses lots of music and guided self-discovery in the classroom and she loves to help each student to find his personal motivation for and excitement for learning.
Her love for German culture began with her first visit to Germany in 2010. She accompanied her husband on a trip to visit Germany, a place that he had fallen in love with when the Air Force stationed him at Spangdahlem. She, too, was captured by the kind people , traditional foods and each town’s christkindlmarkt all across the country.
Frau Hayes is a country girl at heart and loves cowboy boots, college football (especially Texas A&M), Texas Rangers’ baseball, and southern cooking. She lives in Eagle River with her husband, Jason, and her two children, Barrett and Paisley. They all love the Alaskan life: hiking, camping, fishing, skiing and playing outdoors with their English Mastiff and St. Bernard.
Carrie Ross – 2nd Grade German
You can reach Frau Ross at email@example.com
Frau Ross grew up in Oregon. She has a B.A. in International Business with a minor in German from Oregon State University. She has also studied Japanese and lived in Japan for one year. She earned her certificate in teaching from M.A.T distance program from the University of Alaska Southeast.
Teaching has always been in her background. She taught English in Japan and E.S.L (English as a Second Language) at Oregon State University. She has also taught many children’s classes in her church. Before earning her teaching certificate, Frau Ross was the long-term substitute gym teacher at Rilke Schule.
All three of Frau Ross’ sons have attended Rilke Schule. Her middle son was lucky enough to travel to Germany in the summer of 2014 with Rilke Schule Travel Club.
Frau Ross has three boys, ages 11, 13, and 15. All three play hockey and participate in many school activities. There is never a dull moment with three boys. She enjoys camping, hiking, and fishing with her boys in the summer.
Her hobbies include running, scrap-booking, cooking, reading, and watching German TV on the internet.
Her favorite German word is Nickerchen which means nap.
For more information about Frau Ross and her class, visit her class website.
Peter Birmanns – 2nd and 3rd Grade German
You can email Herr Birmanns at Birmanns_Peter@asdk12.org
Herr Birmanns is from Aachen, the most western German city at the border to the Netherlands and to Belgium. He went to university in Tuebingen, near Stuttgart in the South. He has taught two years College German and History, ten years High School and two years Middle School German and Spanish
and two years Elementary.
His family can be traced back to the 13th century in the same village close to Aachen in Germany.
Herr Birmanns is married to a Spanish teacher. He has survived careers as baker and as roofer. He was hit by lightening once in the Alps, and survived that too!
His favorite German word is either Schmierfink or Faulpelz, both words he heard a lot in his childhood and again in married life.
Debra Schwicht – 3rd Grade English
You can email Frau Schwicht at Schwicht_Debra@asdk12.org
Frau Schwicht grew up on a farm in Georgia. She graduated from UAA with a bachelors in Elementary education with an emphasis in History. She is the mother of six, and has been here in Alaska with her husband Steve for 29 years.
She has been involved with education for 12 years, teaching preschool through High School. In her three years at Rilke Schule she has taught every grade except first, and been the librarian as well!
She has been able to travel to Germany 3 times, twice with students from Rilke Schule.
In her spare time she enjoys reading, traveling and being outdoors.
Her favorite German word “Entschuldigen!”
Catherine Radke – 3rd Grade German
You can email Frau Radke at Radke_Catherine@asdk12.org.
Frau Radke graduated from college in 2003 with a B.A. in German and Latin, having spent her junior year in Vienna, Austria. Subsequently she moved to Freiburg, Germany and was an English language assistant in a Gymnasium (grades 5-13) there. After that she moved to Gimmelwald, Switzerland, a tiny farming village in the Alps, and worked on a farm and at a B&B while being totally immersed in Swiss mountain culture. After deciding she needed a full time job (though raking hay and making cheese was quite enjoyable), she moved back home to Texas and taught 3rd-5th grade Latin at a private school. She wanted to pursue German, though, so she applied to graduate school and received her M.A. in German with teaching licensure in 2008 from Tufts University in Boston.
She is thrilled to be able to help kids along on the road of discovery that is a natural result of learning another language. She loves to ski, play piano, hike, take pictures, and learn about the Middle Ages.
Corinne Kubena – 4th Grade English
You can reach Frau Kubena at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Corinne Kubena was born and raised in the beautiful state of Alaska. After graduating high school, she moved to Washington state to earn her undergraduate degree in Political Science, with a minor in Spanish, from Washington State University (Go Cougs!). She then went on to earn her MEd from Eastern Washington University, an opportunity which has allowed her to teach at both the elementary and college levels.
During the summer months, Corinne enjoys spending her time outdoors and traveling. She loves hiking, camping, fishing, backpacking, and working as a certified white water rafting guide in the state of WA. She has also had the opportunity to live abroad, calling Venezuela, Mexico, Ecuador, and Australia all “home”.
She is deeply passionate about volunteering with the American Heart Association and has acted as a race participant, a fund-raiser, a political advocate, a spokesperson, and a guest speaker. Her hope is to always continue helping to bring awareness to heart disease management and prevention.
Branden Strauch – 4th Grade German
You can email Herr Strauch at email@example.com
Branden Strauch is a husband and father. He has been teaching at Rilke Schule since 2009 as a German immersion teacher at various grade levels and currently teaches fourth grade. Furthermore, Branden has led numerous student clubs and camps over the years as a counselor and coordinator. He has a M.Ed in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of St. Thomas and BA in German and History from the UW-Madison. His experiences include studying abroad and attending several conferences, seminars, and workshops in Germany.
Matt Spence – 5th Grade German and English
You can email Herr Spence at spence_matthew@
Herr Spence was born and raised in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. In high school he travelled to Neu-Ulm, Germany as part of the German American Partnership Program. He studied German at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro and Johannes-Gutenberg-Universität in Germersheim, Germany. He earned his BA in Languages with a minor in AK Native Studies and Master of Arts in Teaching at UAA.
He is an avid music lover and plays fiddle, mandolin, banjo, guitar, and even a little accordion. He also enjoys traditional Irish, Contra, and Yupik dancing. In the summer he participates in triathlons and volunteers at the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s summer camp.
More information about Herr Spence and his class is available at his class calendar.
Tobi Radke 6th, 7th and 8th Grade German
You can email Herr Radke at Radke_Tobias@asdk12.org
More information about his classes is available at the Rilke Middle School Page.
Susan Oakley – 6th, 7th and 8th Grade English and French
You can email Frau Oakley at Oakley_Susan@asdk12.org
More information about her classes is available at the Rilke Middle School Page.
School Wide – Staff
Kevin Downie – Music
You can email Herr Downie at Downie_Kevin@asdk12.org
Herr Downie was born and raised in Alaska. He has worked for the Anchorage School District teaching music for the last 16 years. He spent a year studying music at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria and enjoys teaching with some of his materials from the institute.
He loves teaching and has a philosophy that all children can learn and be successful in music. He teaches kids to learn to read, write and play music through singing, performing, listening, dancing, and creating.
He loves to ski, climb, and travel, and his most exciting adventure in the last few years has been a successful summit of Denali in 2005. He and his wife now enjoy skiing with their young daughter.
He enjoys being part of the Rilke Schule community.
Mary Collins, Art
You can email Frau Collins at Collins_Mary@asdk12.org
Tim Whiteley – PE
You can email Mr. Whiteley at firstname.lastname@example.org
Herr Whiteley graduated from Washington State University in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education. He knew that he either wanted to teach near his hometown, in the Seattle area, or move to Anchorage. After receiving a phone call at a Mariner’s game asking him how quickly he could relocate to Alaska, he started to realize he was about to begin a new journey in his life. About a week later he found himself in a new city he had not been to and teaching at an interesting and exciting place.
He looks forward to furnishing student learning in the classroom and showing students how they can apply themselves outside of the classroom. He knows he made the correct decision to move to Anchorage, and he looks forward to leaving a lasting impact on our future leaders.
Janeen Wilkins 4th and 5th Grade French
You can email Frau Wilkins at email@example.com
Robae Robinson, School Nurse
You can email Frau Robinson at Robinson_Robae@asdk12.org
Angelika West – Teaching Assistant
You can email Frau West at firstname.lastname@example.org
Frau West grew up in south west Germany and was fortunate enough to travel and learn many different languages. Her goal was to work with children in many different places. She got close!
She became a ”KINDERGÄRTNERIN” in Germany in a Fröbel seminar, then studied pediatric nursing and spent months in England and a year in Minneapolis, USA. After several years as a nurse and nanny, She really wanted to return to the USA. Through friends she learned about the Montessori Method.
She landed in Fairbanks in 1966 and taught for approximately six years at the Fairbanks Montessori school, nine years at the Anchorage Montessori school, and 15 1/2 years at the Providence Center for Child Development. She happily retired and did a little volunteer work. But she got bored and then heard about the NEW German School. So here she is! She loves working with the staff and children and experiencing the new challenges of a young charter school.
She has grown twin children and is the proud grandmother of 3 grandchildren.
Trevor Sandberg – Teaching Assistant
You can email Trevor at email@example.com
Jo Sanders – Founder / Curriculum Director
You can email Frau Sanders at Frausanders@alaska.com or you can telephone her at 345-0203.
Jo Sanders is a 35 year veteran of the Anchorage School District (West HS, Bartlett HS, Village Charter, and Aquarian Charter). She is one of the founders of Rilke Schule. Frau Sanders has been the president of the American Association of Teachers of German, the Northwest Council on Foreign Languages and the Alaskan Foreign Language Association. She was named the outstanding German teacher in the United States by the American Association of Teachers of German, was Anchorage Teacher of the Year, a Walt Disney Salute to American Education Teacher, a Fulbright Exchange Teacher, recipient of the national Florence Steiner Award for Leadership in Foreign Language and received the Bundesverdienstkreuz (Federal Cross of Honor) from the Federal Republic of Germany.
Frau Sanders is a consultant and trains teachers all over the United States for the Goethe Institute and the AATG. As a local teacher, she co-founded the state German Camp, which has run since 1973 and the state Foreign Language Declamation Contest. Many of the local German teachers did their student teaching under Frau Sanders. Her personal interest in nature is reflected in her classroom teaching and her methods emphasize hands-on learning, lots of songs, games and physical activities.