For nearly 30 years, Lisa and Art Lader have taught German to hundreds of high school students – including more than two decades inspiring those at Aiken High.
Much to their delight, their daughter, Sarah Nell, has unexpectedly found her own interest in the language but with a unique twist.
A University of South Carolina graduate last May, Sarah Nell is now participating in a Fulbright Scholarship in German, teaching English to young German students.
“It’s a joy to follow my own parents,” she said. “I don’t know what it would be like without it. It’s fun to surprise people.”
Remarkably, Sarah Nell’s parents long ago experienced a similar process. Lisa Lader had studied German at Aiken High with Tanya Moore and went on to USC. Professors with the German department supported Lisa, and she earned her Fulbright to study further in Germany.
She and Art had gotten married in 1980, and he accompanied Lisa to Germany, deciding to learn the language to speak with her in that way.
“Art had been an English teacher and became fluent in German,” Lisa said in a previous interview. “I never imagined he would turn it into his career.”
Both have excelled at Aiken High; In recent years, each was selected as the Aiken County School District teacher of the year.
The Laders didn’t push the study of German on their daughter, worried that she would resist if they forced it on her.
“They only spoke German at home when they didn’t want me to understand them,” Sarah Nell said mischievously. Of course, she couldn’t help but learn the language. Sarah Nell had joined her parents for many summers when they took some of their high school students to three-week exchange programs to German.
They still offer the program, and students from Germany will visit Aiken in the second semester. Sarah Nell took French for three years. She had gotten to know German well through the exchange program and started out with German II in her dad’s class.
“She was a good student, finishing second in the state on the National German Exam.,” Art said and Lisa added, “It was a lot of fun that Sarah Nell was going to learn German. But it became inconvenient, because we couldn’t talk in secret around her.”
Sarah Nell was doing well in school overall and made the choice to skip her junior year. She also skipped German III and got her dad again for German IV as a senior. She was accepted into USC’s Honors College as a double major in German and psychology.
By the time Sarah Nell had graduated, she had been thinking about the Fulbright to work in Germany. Such an experience wasn’t really new; after her sophomore year at USC, she was accepted to a month-long program as a teaching assistant in Germany.
“I started my Fulbright Sept. 8, teaching English to kids 10 to 16,” Sarah Nell said. “There are a lot of small focus groups, and I take them out in the fall and debate in English. I also go through the work more slowly for those kids who are struggling.”
When Sarah Nell returns to the U.S. next summer, she will search for internships, probably in the area of environmental recycling. Germany is very much a pro-environmental nation, and Sarah Nell is interested in green initiatives. But she isn’t going to rule out teaching either.
The Laders have had so many other kids within their classes. One of Sarah Nell’s professors at USC is Dr. Laura Ducate, a student of her parents. Dr. Martin Sheehan, also a Lader student, currently teaches at Tennessee Tech University. Susan Walk’s German skills helped her get into the State Department in Washington, D.C.
“Now it’s like Sarah Nell joined the family business,” said Art. “We always hoped she would become her own person, and she is. But it’s nice she has joined us in this.”