MAHOPAC, N.Y. - Mahopac High School senior Jaiden Miller went to Chicago earlier this month where she gave an outstanding showing in an event known as the German Olympiad.
Miller was one of 14 students from across the country chosen to compete in the competition to determine which students had the best grasp of the German language, history and culture.
Miller finished fifth in Chicago out of the 14 competitors. While she won’t be flying to Dresden, Germany, next summer to represent the United States in the global competition as the first-place finishers will, her performance was outstanding.
“The ones who won really deserved it; they were really fluent,” Miller said. “We had conversations and I could tell right away. But it was really fun because I met a bunch of people from different states who were really cool.”
Katrina Bauerlein, Miller’s German teacher, said the Olympiad is held at the Goethe Institute, a cultural arm of the German Foreign Office, which works closely with embassy and consulate to promote German culture and language around the world.
“We have done a variety of activities [with the Goethe Institute],” Bauerlein said. “We went to a book talk with a German author in New York City, those kinds of opportunities. We are privileged with our relationship with them.”
Bauerlein said schools were asked to submit U.S. students for the national competition and Miller was chosen to participate in the first round in an online match between students from 40 states.
“She is really quite special in terms of her ability to speak German,” Bauerlein said of Miller. “The hallmark of her talent is her speaking ability. She can pretty much express whatever she wants to in German in both spoken word and written language. What helps her stand out is the ability to express clearly what she is trying to explain but with a great deal of nuance. If I introduce a new word, she’s used it by the end of the class at least three times.”
Miller said the online competition lasted for a week.
“Each day you did something different,” she explained. “There were multiple choice [questions] on the history of Germany; you read an article in German and answered questions and wrote an essay. They have you write an imaginary email to a teacher on a certain topic. You record yourself telling facts about ourselves in German.”
Miller said it was her dad who influenced her to take German at MHS.
“I took German because my dad took it in high school and minored in it in college,” she said. “He told me it was interesting, and I really like it now.”
Her dad, Daniel Miller, who was recently appointed as a Carmel town justice, accompanied her on her trip to Chicago.
Miller said the competition at the Goethe Institute to be similar to what she faced in the online quiz.
“We went into a private room and did multiple-choice; we did some conversations with the administration and were graded,” she said. You had to do a skit, and we did a talk show and were graded on how we presented information.”
After the competition, there was an award ceremony and the contestants were awarded medals.
“Because we spoke German the whole time, it really helped a lot,” Miller said. “Sometimes, people asked questions [in English] and I would almost respond in German. I think I could go to Germany and hold a conversation with no problem.”
Miller said she hasn’t decided on a major yet or what college she’ll attend next fall but has narrowed it down.
“I’m looking at the University of Virginia and North Carolina at Chapel Hill,” she said. “I was thinking of minoring in German. I definitely want to keep it going throughout college. It’s very important to me.”
She said her dad was excited to attend the competition in Chicago with her.
“He was the one who told me to do the competition in the first place,” she said. “He is the one who convinced me to do it.”
Miller also had praise for Bauerlein, whose instruction prepared her for the Olympiad.
“She is definitely one of my favorite teachers,” she said.