Brief History

Anchorage has successful language immersion programs in Spanish, Japanese, and Russian. However, until 2007 there had been no German offered at the elementary school level. Northern Lights ABC, a K-8 optional school, offers German in seventh and eighth grades, but most students cannot join the program in middle school.


In March, 2006, a group of enthusiastic parents and German teachers joined forces and started the process of chartering a tuition-free German immersion school. Under the competent leadership of Jo Sanders, an Anchorage German teacher with 45 years of teaching experience, and with the committed help and dedicated work of a team of volunteers, the Anchorage School District approved the application forthe Rilke Schule— German School of Arts and Sciences, on December 4, 2006. The school opened in August of 2007.


It spans Kindergarten through 8th grade, thus being the first immersion program to encompass elementary and middle school. Furthermore, all students attending the Rilke Schule German School of Arts and Sciences learn German, facilitating the immersion into the German culture and language.  We attract a diverse student population by offering a challenging high-quality bilingual education supported by a unique after-school program with a variety of activities.



The School Name: Who was Rainer Maria Rilke?

Ranier Maria Rilke This school is named after Rainer Maria Rilke, who was born to René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke in 1875 in Prague, Bohemia and died in 1926 in Switzerland. He is considered one of the greatest poets and writers of 20th century German Literature. He wrote in both verse and a highly lyrical prose. His poetic style was rich and supple, varying from simple to the elaborate and profound.


Rilke has been attributed with transforming the German language into a poetic language with his dense, lyrical style, and his startling images that portray the complexities of modern life and their effects on the sensitive human being. Rilke’s poetry is generally characterized by striking visual imagery and musicality. His poetry and writing was greatly influenced by his wandering life among literary people as well as his travels, notably by trips to Russia, Italy, North Africa, and elsewhere. He was a superb and prolific letter writer. Rilke's reputation has ascended to great heights since his death. Most of his work has been translated.


The school’s mascot is a panther in reference to Rilke’s poem 'Der Panther' (The Panther).



Significant Events at Rilke Schule

Rilke Schule Grand Opening October 1st, 2008

Ribbon Cutting

Under blue and sunny fall skies, Rilke Schule celebrated its Grand Opening in style and with cheer. Though already open for a year, this event was a celebration of many reasons:


* the move into our first building at 650 W. International Airport Road

* the official recognition of Rilke Schule by the Federal Republic of Germany with a presentation of a "big check" for €15,000

* and the hand-over of the state-of-the-art playground structure from the parents to the school *a celebration of our principal, teachers, staff, and parents for being committed and dedicated to our school thoroughout the first spirited year.


* and last but not least, the celebration of "mission accomplished", the completion of the founding years that began in March 2006.




‌Rilke Schule is presented with a big check in the amount of €15,000 in support of the German program at the school. Petra Nickerson holds Gov. Palin's proclamation that declares Oct. 1, 2008 Rilke Schule Grand Opening Day.    


German Club Donates $15,000 toward the Playground June, 2008



‌The German Club of Anchorage donated $15,000 insupport of our desperately needed playground structure. The German Club is impressed with the dedication of the staff, supporters, and students of Rilke Schule and understands the importance of building healthy minds and bodies. Thank you German Club, for your very generous gift!        


Rilke Schule Receives German Government Sponsorship April 2007

The Bundesverwaltungsamt / Zentralstelle für Auslandschulen (ZfA) agreed and confirmed to support Rilke Schule with €15,000 ($23,454) annually. Furthermore it agreed to pay for a German teacher who holds the "2. Staatsexamen" from Germany.  The announcement will be made official during the Grand Opening of the school, at the beginning of October and a ceremonial "big check" will handed over to the founders of the school.


Rilke Schule was also placed on the list of German Immersion programs Abroad. Only schools named on this list receive this monetary support from the German Government.


The APC and the staff will discuss and plan carefully what to purchase for the German classes to create a more authentic German language and culture learning environment.


The founders of the school are grateful and honored that the BVA has recognized the enormous efforts and hard work it took to create Rilke Schule and to promote the German language and culture in Alaska. The founders are also thankful for the strong support of Rilke Schule's dedicated principal (Crystal Wrabetz), teachers, and staff, as well as the Rilke Schule Verein; this daunting project could not have been accomplished with out them. Danke!


The APC: Klaus Mayer (Pres.), Antje Carlson, Petra Nickerson, Jo Sanders, Max Gruener, Joe Reid.


German Club of Anchorage Oktoberfest 2007

Our students had their singing and dancing debut at this year's Oktoberfest. The German Club welcomed the young talents and is happy to see that the culture and language is kept alive. Parent, Arlynda Hermann took time to sew red suspenders for the boys and aprons for the girls. Thanks, Mom! And don't they all look darling? "Ich habe eine Banane und die Banane ist grün......" was the song of the evening.

 Choir Choir2


Recommendation for Rilke Schule October 2007

In October Heinz Kohlmeier, Consultant for the Center of German Studies Abroad, and Rita Reiff, President of German American School Association (GASA) visited the school where they observed the classrooms and talked to teachers, parents, and APC members. They also met with ASD Superintendent Carol Comeau, World Language Coordinator Janice Gullickson, and Curriculum Director Enid Silverstein. The objective of the visit was to get Rilke Schule support and recognition from the German Government. Here is the exact replication of Mr. Kohlmeier's impression that he summarized in a letter to us. A letter of recommendation was also written and then forwarded to the German Foreign Ministry. 


Bundesverwaltun As the German Government’s Educational Language Consultant on the West Coast, it is one of my missions to help develop and to support German-American immersion schools with challenging curricula.


The German government is especially interested in recognizing and assisting excellent programs so that they become models to foster the important and long standing German-American relations. It is in both state’s interest to educate students with an open mind for tolerance and international multicultural understanding in a bicultural, bilingual environment.


Rilke Schule is tailoring a service to the interested American public, desiring challenging American and German-International diplomas for access to the most distinguished universities world-wide.


The best of American, German and international educational standards sponsor



*Understanding of other cultures and languages

*Global citizens

*Future leaders

*Intellectual and personal development


The unique way to achieve those qualities is


*Acquiring native mastery in German through immersion

*Learning even more languages in a multicultural school setting

*Language proficiency by studying subjects in several languages

*Special support in individual cases The German Language Consultant

*Sponsors the program according to the ongoing development

* Provides consultancy to the school

*Supervises the administration of the German curriculum

*Connects to a world network of similar schools and model schools throughout the US

*Sponsors continuity


The German language consultant will visit the school on a regular basis and provide support for further development. Along with American standards supervised by American authorities there will also be an ongoing rigorous quality assessment by the German language consultant on teaching, curriculum and school atmosphere.


Rilke Schule is supported and run by a very experienced team of teachers and administrators, some of which are legendary for their expertise throughout the US. Furthermore the Anchorage school district recognizes the potential and high quality of Rilke Schule by showing unprecedented support.


All of this and the quality teaching that could be observed guarantee that Rilke Schule will exceed all expectations.


With kind regards

Mit freundlichen Grüßen


Heinz Kohlmeier, Los Angeles, October 2007

First Day of Classes or Rilke Schule, August 22, 2007


Teacher and photographer Nick Gillespie took this historic picture.

Thank you Nick!

This was a precious moment, especially for the founding members of the school.

Mein erster Schultag          


Grill Fest 2007, A Big Hit

July 19, 2007     

Under beautiful sunny skies, Rilke Schule, parents, and friends enjoyed a delightful Grillfest on the backside of the school building. For our 4th Lottery, we wanted to bring the parents and friends together by organizing a fun summertime event.     

Also, we invited a special guest: IDITAROD CHAMPION MARTIN BUSER. The kids buzzed around him, and Martin not only graciously signed photos but also did the lottery drawing. His wife Kathy accompanied him and she shared her experiences as an elementary teacher at Midnight Sun Family Learning Center in Wasilla with APC members and some of our teachers.     

The Rilke Schule APC was totally surprised by the huge turnout of people. We estimate that between 120 and 150 people attended the event. Among them were Hans Schwaiger, President of the German Club in Anchorage, and Susan Forbes, principal of Aquarian Charter School.     

Another highlight was the introduction of our principal, Mrs. Crystal Wrabetz, and some of the teachers: Elisabeth Vischer, Jo Sanders, Una Swain, Tiffany Kelly, Lindsay Forbes, and Michael Helgesen.     

The Grillfest was mainly organized by the parents. Everybody brought something and pitched in with food, tables, plates and "silverware", drinks, etc. A special thank you goes to the Hermann Family who generously provided all the hamburgers and hotdogs, as well as a beautiful sheetcake decorated with our mascot. Craig Moellerstuen set up a German movie (Monster AG) inside for the kids to watch. 

Martin Buser Lottery Drawing

Martin Buser draws the students' names. Kimala Rein takes notes, Antje Carlson and Petra Nickerson (in front of table) observe the drawing.


Martin Buser autographs his Iditarod photos. Kathy (in the background wearing  white blouse), accompanied Martin to the Grillfest. Kathy, we are glad you came!    


      Greg G Grilling

Our Grillmeister Greg Gould is dishing it out to the students!                            


Rilke Schule finalizes the first building location

June 22, 2007


June 15, 2007

Rilke Schule APC President Klaus Mayer and landlord Steve Zelener from International Airport, LLC, seal the successful Rilke Schule lease contract negotiations with a handshake. The Anchorage School District gave verbal approval of the contract following this 2-hour meeting, Friday, June 22, 2007 . This approval concludes intense and arduous negotiations between the ASD, International Airport, LLC, and Rilke Schule. Steve Zelener (left) and APC Board Chair Klaus Mayer.      



First Rilke Schule Lottery

March 15, 2007

Lottery Drawing

 ‌The first public lottery drawing took place March 15, 2007 at 10 am in the Senior Leadership Conference Room at Hope Community Resources (540 W International Airport Rd.). It was a historical moment for us! The Honorary Consul of Germany, Bernd Guetschow, witnessed the event and drew the grades and names. Two parents (Mrs. Debra Schwicht in the photo) volunteered their time and attended the drawing, too. Others present were founding board members Jo Sanders, Klaus Mayer, Antje Carlson, and Max Gruener.




 German School Approved



Anchorage Daily News


(Published: December 10, 2006)


The Anchorage School Board has approved creation of a German immersion charter school.


The Rilke Schule German School of Arts and Sciences will open in fall 2007 at a site on Fireweed Lane near North Star Elementary School, if organizers can enroll 150 kids.


The district already operates Spanish, Japanese and Russian immersion classes as part of regular school programs. This would be the first immersion program to run as a charter school. Students will begin by taking half their lessons in German, the other half in English. Classes would become more German-heavy as the years progress.


Kids will celebrate German holidays, learn about the country's culture, travel to Germany, and chat by e-mail and regular mail with German pen pals. The school gets its name from German poet Rainer Maria Rilke. His famous poem, "Der Panther," gives Rilke Schule a panther as its mascot.


Board member Jake Metcalfe originally voted against the charter school, but later changed his vote.


It's nothing against German language and culture, Metcalfe said. He spoke German in college and said it remains a useful language when traveling through Europe.


"My whole problem with charter schools is because we don't provide transportation, they become these little private public schools," he said. "That isn't right for me because public schools are supposed to be for everybody. ... I think it fractures the district. I don't think it's good for education."


Another immersion charter school is in the works: Susan Oakley, a French teacher at Goldenview Middle School, is forming a French immersion school that would go up for School Board review in about a year.


Oakley said it's possible the French school -- if approved -- would share a building with the German immersion program.