Weinmann hopes to bring a bite of American culture to Austrian students
August 14, 2020
By Mike Killeen
Editor’s note: This feature story on Kathryn Weinmann is the fifth story that will appear this summer on the CSB/SJU website featuring graduates who received awards from either the Fulbright U.S. Student Program or the Fulbright Austria-United States Teaching Assistant program.
What do Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, kickball and Bob Dylan have in common?
All are elements Kathryn Weinmann will include in her teaching in Austria this coming school year.
Weinmann is one of two 2020 College of Saint Benedict graduates to receive Fulbright Austria-United States Teaching Assistant positions through the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research. She will teach in Feldkirch, Voralberg (a western state in Austria) working with students ages 11-14 as well as university students at the Hochschule.
“A key component of the Fulbright program is to unite and create understanding across cultures,” said Weinmann, who received a degree in instrumental music education at CSB. “I am still brainstorming as to what I will do with the cultural component of my lessons.
“I've juggled ideas about teaching the students various gym games like kickball and baseball, introducing them to Reese's Peanut Butter Cups - if they haven't had them already - and of course incorporating American composers Aaron Copland, Louis Armstrong and Bob Dylan into the lessons.”
Fulbright Austria has worked with the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research to bring qualified university graduates from the U.S. to teach English in secondary schools in Austria. As teaching assistants, they help Austrian students develop the linguistic skills that will help them succeed.
They also serve as an informal cultural ambassador and promote mutual understanding between the peoples of the U.S. and the Republic of Austria.
Music is a big part of Weinmann’s life. Her primary instrument is the viola (she started playing it in fifth grade), although she can play other string instruments as well.
“My elementary school had an instrument exploration day where we could try different instruments to see if we liked them,” Weinmann said. “Viola was my favorite I played that day.”
During her time at CSB and Saint John’s University, she participated in the Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra, Fiddle Ensemble, Amadeus Orchestra, Chamber Choir and the Choral Arts Ensemble.
“Music and teaching are very connected,” said Weinmann, a graduate of Fargo (North Dakota) South High School. “I believe each individual has their own strength - even if they are not aware of it - just like each musician has their own strength. This inspires me and I consider it a quest to help each student find their strengths in hopes to guide them toward their potential.”
In fact, her interest in music led her to CSB and SJU.
“The summer after my freshman year of high school, I attended the Upper Midwestern String Camp (UMSC) on the Saint Ben's campus,” Weinmann said. “I loved it so much that I attended UMSC the next summer in addition to another camp on the Saint John's campus (the National Catholic Youth Choir).”
Weinmann said this opportunity is a reflection of her academic efforts and time at CSB and SJU.
“Throughout the last four years, I studied diligently, practiced routinely and absorbed as much information as possible,” she said. “I am extremely thankful for the late nights in the library and early mornings in a practice room, but most of all I am thankful for the coaching and guidance I received from my professors and mentors.”
Those mentors included Jeanne Cofell, visiting professor of education; Axel Theimer, professor of music (voice); and Kurt Hollender, visiting assistant professor of German in the languages and cultures department.
“Jeanne Cofell is so kind and understanding toward others - I look up to her and try to replicate her kindness,” said Weinmann, who was a secondary education minor. “Axel Theimer has this philosophy of authenticity that he brings to rehearsals that really helped me develop as an individual, musician and teacher. Kurt Hollender's door is always open for students.”
It turns out Hollender opened the door for Weinmann to pursue a Fulbright award.
“I found out about Fulbright my sophomore year when I took my first German class with Kurt,” Weinmann said. “After I expressed interest in the program, Kurt encouraged me to strengthen my German skills, refine my résumé and continue exploring classes. The fall of my senior year is when I really buckled down on my (Fulbright) application.”
After her year in Austria, Weinmann plans to teach elementary music in the United States and operate a small music studio on the side to teach lessons. Up first, however, will be her “total submersion” into the Austrian culture, including learning how to ski.
“The idea of engaging in an education system completely different from my experience excites me,” Weinmann said. “I am eager to add new pedagogy techniques to my current skill set. Throughout the academic year, I will have the opportunity to incorporate cultural components from the United States, such as American music and sports, into the academic lessons.”
That’s where a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup will greet Bob Dylan following a game of kickball.
CSB and SJU students interested in applying for a Fulbright Award for the 2021-22 academic year should contact Phil Kronebusch, professor of political science and coordinator of Competitive Fellowships at CSB and SJU, or Lindsey Gutsch, assistant director of the Academic Center for Excellence and Success at CSB/SJU.