Carol Tippett-Bukta (CO81) ‘Teaching English in Germany’

After leaving Truro School in 1981, I studied European Studies and Modern Languages at University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST). In my third year of study I did a compulsory stint as an assistant language teacher at a Grammar School (Gymnasium) in Herrenberg, in the state of Baden-Württemberg, in south-western Germany.

During this year abroad, I met my future husband and, after graduating from UMIST in July 1985, I returned to Baden-Württemberg to live – indefinitely, as it turned out.

Due to difficulties with the recognition of my university qualification here in Germany, I initially only got limited contracts with companies such as Hewlett-Packard and IBM and I began teaching English as a side-line, partly for an international language institute in Stuttgart, a private company near my home here and then in adult education at the Volkshochschule (VHS). If I had remained in the UK I had planned to do a PGCE and went to the University of Tübingen to find out whether I could do teacher training here in Baden-Württemberg. However, the system is so different here and I was told that I would have to begin a whole new course of study if I had ambitions of teaching here.

Well, I had to earn my living so I put that idea on ice.

After getting a full-time position at Hewlett-Packard as a Documentation Engineer in 1987, writing users’ manuals for office software, I got married to Toni Bukta in May 1988.

In May 1990 our first child, Anna, was born and in May 1992, we had a son, Max.

Whilst the children were growing up, I had the luxury of being able to stay at home to bring them up and commit my free time to running a fitness group (ski club) and chairing the PTA at both Anna’s and Max’s schools – a very interesting and rewarding experience. I also worked voluntarily as a reading mentor for children at a local primary school.

Out of the blue in 2005, I got the chance to do sick cover at a state Grammar School here and what was originally a 3-month contract turned into another 12-months contract. Parallel to that, I also got a contract for sick cover at a second Grammar School here in my ‘home’ town of Sindelfingen – famous for the large Mercedes Benz factory.

Hoping that I would be able to progress from there to perhaps complete teacher training and have my BSc Hons, fully recognised, I went to the Education Ministry, only to be told that I could do sick cover, but that was all!

Sadly, on May 5th 2006, my husband died unexpectedly of a heart attack. (As you can see, May is ‘our’ month, from both a positive and negative point of view!)

Around the time of the funeral, an acquaintance, who was on the board of governors of a Steiner School (Waldorf) in a neighbouring town, came to tell me that the school was desperately looking for an English teacher for the Sixth Form and would I be interested. She took my CV etc and within a week I was at an interview and landed myself a new job – very welcome at such an insecure time.

Well, I have been teaching English at the Freie Waldorfschule Böblingen since September 2006 and have meanwhile successfully guided seven classes through their Abitur (GCSE A-levels, as we used to call them!) and three through their O-levels. Although most schools here in Baden-Württemberg have adopted the 8-year system of secondary education, all Steiner Schools teach 9 years and I am currently responsible for years 13 (A-level group), 12, 11a and 11b (O-level group).

In the run-up to the referendum in spring, I decided to finally apply for German citizenship as I had an inkling that the vote could go the ‘wrong way’ for me as a British ex-pat. This I successfully did, also being able to retain my British citizenship since the UK is still an EU member.

My mum died, aged 91, in January 2015, so I had to sell her flat in Newquay in that summer, meaning that we now lack a base for trips to Cornwall. That’s a pity, since we spent almost all our summer holidays as a family, including six more years since my husband died, in Newquay and Anna and Max felt it was their second home.

Anna Recently got married to her long-time boyfriend, Christian, with whom she is currently living in Munich, hoping to finish her Master’s degree in sport in the spring. At school, my passion was always hockey, and Anna took up the sport whilst at primary school and joined the local club where, in fact, she met Christian, and they both now play for a Munich team at regional and 2nd Bundesliga level. My son, Max, is currently studying at the Sorbonne, Paris, on the Erasmus programme. He is studying English and French (to become a Grammar school teacher) at Freiburg University and has two more years of study ahead of him. As a fanatic footballer, he has also sought out a club in Paris and now plays there with teammates predominantly from the Maghreb states.

All in all, everyone seems happy and settled, which makes me proud as a parent!

Back in the times when I got the chance to attend Truro School, it was a real privilege for me and I tried to make the most of that opportunity. My time there was extraordinary and I look back with a great fondness.

I wondered if Mrs Ward was still at the school, she was our German native speaker back in the days of Mr Worsley-White and it is to her, especially, that I owe my passion for German and Germany!

Although I live too far away to attend events at Truro School, I always enjoy receiving and reading the newsletter. Since I have never seen anything about my peers from my two years with you, I am excited to share my contact details, in the hope that I will be able to trace some old classmates.

If anyone would like to reconnect with Carol- please get in touch on tsfpa@truroschool.com.