This is the first time Birte Kosten has been in the United States. But she has plenty of other experiences from around the globe.Kosten is the new first grade teacher at West Elementary in the Dual Language Immersion program. West is also the home of the STEM project — aimed to increase the knowledge of science, technology, engineering and math for those in the DLI program.
“The kids here are really awesome,” she said. “I can only speak German to them and they think the language is pretty cool.”
She said once a student asked her if she was from the country of Germany.
Kosten said she was.
“Do you really know all the words in Germany?” the student asked, Kosten related. “It was really cute.”
Kosten says the opportunity to learn a second language at such a young age will really give these students an advantage in the years to come.
“They really like to learn and that is good,” she said.
She teaches the science, math and German parts of the curriculum.
“For first-year students, they are doing pretty good. They pick up the language so quickly and most of them enjoy it,” she said. “By the time, they are in second and third grades I can see they really have it figured out.”
The first-graders started going to the school’s STEM lab after the first of the year.
“I wanted to make sure they understood more information than from the first of the semester,” she noted. “I wanted them to understand me well and were good at following directions.”
Kosten’s co-teacher is Becka Hall and together they teach the 52 students in the first-grade program. She likes the setup of the school.
“It is nice to have a computer in each room and so many other things,” she said. “There is more collaboration with your colleagues here and you get careful feedback on things.”
Kosten learned about this program as part of the Check Point Charles program that matches German teachers with schools that request teachers.
“First they have us do a Skype interview. Then they are in touch with us and choose the teachers to work in the schools,” she said.
She was glad to be chosen to come to the U.S. When she arrived in Tooele, it was not as close to Salt Lake City as she had thought. So, she got a car.
“I do miss public transportation quite a lot. It is not easy to get to things here,” she said. “It makes it harder to go and do things.”
Kosten comes from Hamburg, Germany. After teaching for several years, she decided to have some adventures.
“I was teaching in a school where you stay with the same students from first through fourth grade,” she said. “It was nice to move up with them each year.”
She went from Germany to Albania.
“I was there teaching for six months. It was very different,” she said.
Kosten had to learn a little of the difficult language.
“I had to learn some Albanian just to be polite,” she said. “But it was very hard.”
Then she went to South Africa to teach in a kindergarten in one of the townships.
“It was a school that offered children more,” she said. “It was like ‘come here and go to school, eat, sleep here and we will help you.’”
Life there was very political, and she did not like it.
So, next she was off to America. After this, she wants her next adventure to be back in Europe.
Since coming here, Kosten has traveled a lot in the West.
“Moab has been my favorite so far. It was just awesome,” she said.
There, she and her boyfriend enjoyed road biking, hiking and other outdoor activities.
She has also been to Yellowstone.
“That was just awesome, we went over the Labor Day weekend,” she said.
The couple has also been to Kanarra Falls, Cedar Breaks and Park City. She said the best mountain biking has been in Park City.
“I want to travel more and see more things in this beautiful area,” she said.
She is really excited about the snow. In her part of Germany, it is not so cold, but is windy there.
“We went downhill skiing, but it is pricey so I am planning on sticking with cross-country skiing,” she noted.
In Tooele, she noted, people have been very friendly and donated items that were needed for her house.
“We love Moab so much. Since I am a vegetarian it has been hard to find a lot of items and we sometimes need to go to Salt Lake,” she said. “It is not as easy to get healthy choices here. But we did have pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.”
She had friends come for Thanksgiving break and they went to Las Vegas. They went to Salt Lake City for Christmas.
“We have a darling little house in Tooele and my boyfriend is here,” she said. “The school was very helpful in getting a new phone number, gas and electricity. They have been good.”
For other fun, they have been attending a lot of high school related activities.
“We have been to football games and musicals and other activities and it has been fun,” she said. “Tooele is a good place.”