The award is open to all graduating seniors with four semesters of German language experience who are looking for an opportunity to teach English abroad.
Grell believes his experience teaching at the German institution, which will be similar to instructing grades 5-12 in American schools, will be valuable for two reasons.
"Personally, I want to improve my German language skills and make new German friends," he said. "Professionally, I hope to gain teaching skills that will be helpful because I hope to go on to complete graduate studies in history. The Rimbach award will help me reach these goals."
Grell sees himself as an "ambassador of American culture" and believes that the Rimbach program compliments the values he has acquired during his time at St. Olaf.
"St. Olaf is committed to giving students a global perspective, but it is also firmly rooted in the Lutheran heritage," Grell said. "The Rimbach program reaffirms these ideals."
Grell, who spent his sophomore year abroad at the University of Paderborn in Paderborn, Germany, believes his academic and work experience as an undergraduate made him a strong candidate for the award.
"I know what its like to learn a foreign language," Grell said. "Ive been a German TA [teaching assistant] for two years."
The responsibilities of a Rimbach Award recipient are varied, but he or she usually acts as a teachers assistant, helping with English courses at Martin Luther Schule, a private institution. Grell will also be in charge of the English drama club.
The Rimbach Teaching Award has a long history, steeped in St. Olafs tradition of sending students abroad.
The program began in 1948 after Howard Hong, whom Grell called a "cultural icon of St. Olaf," connected with a pastor who knew that Rimbach was looking for foreign teachers after World War II.
Rimbach schools were experiencing a large flood of immigrant students and teachers were needed to help with reconstruction efforts.
Hong started a program whereby a graduating senior was elected by the student body to go to Rimbach for two semesters. The students appropriated $1,000 to the senior and the program ran in this manner until 1968.
"I studied the history of the Rimbach award in the college archives with Gary DeKrey and Jeff Suave," Grell said. "Students after 1968 were more interested in giving the money for parties and other functions."
In 2002, the Rimbach Teaching Award returned. Students are now selected through a committee of inter-department faculty members.
Professor of German Karl Fink was the chair of this year's selection committee, which also included professors Jonathan Hill of the English department, Robert Nichols of the history department, Charles Taliaferro of the philosophy department and Karen Wilson Peterson of the theatre department.
Funding for the program now comes from the Rimbach Associates, an organization composed of alumni.
Fink and other members of the Rimbach Associates also look for outside sources to help aid in the program. For example, Virginia Larsen, a St. Olaf graduate and a Rimbach scholar, organizes the logistics of the program.
Professor Fink is confident in this year's selection of Grell.
"Erik's German is excellent, he said. He studies German history, so he understands the political scene of his future students. Also, Erik has a unique insight into the pedagogical approach of teaching and learning a foreign language."