German Snapshot of Success

Name: Corey Petzold

Hometown: Kiel, Wis.

Title: German teacher; girls’ head varsity soccer coach

Business: West Bend West High School

Corey’s German roots run deep. So deep, his grandparents used to speak the language to each other at the family farm just outside of Kiel – much to the bewilderment of their grandchildren.

“We never learned it as kids, so German was always known as that secret language of grandma and grandpa,” Corey recalls.

Years later, however, Corey would unlock that secret at Lakeland College. And now, he’s in his fifth year of helping high school students learn the language and the rich culture associated with Germany.

Corey was always strong in math, but he yearned for a liberal arts atmosphere where he could branch out “and learn about everything.” He found Lakeland, which was fairly close to home, and after initially focusing on math there, he gravitated toward German.

“My first year at Lakeland, I went to Germany with Professor Martin Ulrich and learned a lot from him,” Corey recalls. “Mostly I saw his great passion for German. Not just the language, but the culture. I spoke German the whole time on that trip. Then I took another three weeks by myself, traveling around. I really threw myself into the experience, and it solidified the direction I would take.”

He triple majored, in German, secondary education and history, and was hired to teach high school German right out of college. Now he takes about 20 students to Germany each year, and introduces them to the culture – just as Ulrich had done for him.

“Lakeland opened up so many options for me,” Corey says. “Professor Ulrich is a great guy, and we still stay in touch. The one-on-one aspect of the German classes was a great part of the program. Once you get to the upper level classes, you have four to six other students in there with you. There is no place to hide. You can’t sit in the corner. You participate. And that’s a great thing.”