Ben Shivers, Director

Ben Shivers has been connecting German and American cultures since his first fascinating trip to Germany as a 13-year-old. Since then, he earned a Bachelor’s degree in international relations and German and a Master’s in German Linguistics from the Technical University of Dresden. With the generous support of two Fulbright grants, he spent four years living, studying, and working in Germany from 2008-2012. He now teaches German at Woodward Academy, an independent school in College Park, Ga.

Kirsten Suberg, Lead Teacher

My name is Kirsten Suberg, I was born and raised in northern Germany, by the North Sea, and I loved sailing the East Frisian Islands with my dad. Growing up I was very fortunate that my parents traveled all over Europe with me. Through that exposure I developed a very strong passion for languages and cultures. My studies abroad eventually settled me in upstate New York. There I began my teaching career almost eighteen years ago. I have been a class teacher and a German teacher. My passion, still to this day, is to teach the German language and culture, but most importantly I love to create an authentic learning experience for my students. I currently teach all levels of German at North Carolina's largest high school, in Charlotte NC, from the beginning to German IB (International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme) and AP German. I also lead the National German Honor Society Chapter: Delta Epsilon Phi under North Carolina Beta Psi. Presenting students with a language immersion is a phenomenal experience, which is the reason I am so excited about the Deutschakadenmie, at the Virginia Governor’s World Language Academies. I knew I wanted to be able to create an environment that I had experienced during my studies abroad. Being a part of a complete immersion gives the opportunity to dive into an experience to be able to speak in the language, think and sometimes dream in the language. I am thrilled to bring my experiences and talents into this program to create a fun filled, exciting and authentic language immersion program.
Johnatan Wilkey, Teacher

My name is Johnatan Wilkey, German teacher for Chesterfield County Public Schools. I avidly follow the German Bundesliga. My favorite soccer club is Borussia Dortmund. (Heja BVB! Schwarz gelb allez!) I graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a B.A. in German. I am a fully active member of Richmond’s traditional German dancing group, the Hirschjäger. (Insert Juchzer.) My mom and her side of the family moved to Germany from Poland forty years ago. My mom and grandparents live in the town of Hanau, 20 minutes outside of Frankfurt. On my yearly trips to visit my family, I have also spent extended periods of time in Austria and Switzerland with a day trip to Liechtenstein for good measure. In my free time I like to hike, bike, run, play soccer and play video games (zocken). I am super excited to share my passion for German with everyone.
Barbara Okker Hassell, Teacher

Okker Hassell has been a German teacher for 25 years at the high school and college levels.Frau Hassell holds a B.A. from Roanoke College, a M.A.L.S. degree from Hollins University, and a PhD from Virginia Tech. She is a native of Stuttgart Germany and still maintains close ties to her home country. Frau Hassell has published two children’s books
and several journal articles.While teaching German is her passion, she has other hobbies also. Those include cooking, gardening, reading, history, sewing, walking, “not shopping”, traveling, being with friends and family.She has been married for 47 years, and she and her husband have three sons and eight grandchildren. Frau Hassell and her husband live in Roanoke, Virginia.
Monika Sierkowska, Teacher

My name is Monika Sierkowska. I was born in Poland, just miles away from the Ukrainian border. I first discovered the colorful range of foreign languages and cultures by visiting Russian markets in my home town, reading French literature and newspapers and finally, by moving to Germany after I graduated from high-school. I embarked to Munich where I was a student of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität; I studied German, French, and Spanish, and played unreasonable amount of soccer for FC Teutonia München! My passions are soccer, reading and the exchange of ideas between humans.