by Ronnie Ancona and Kathleen Durkin
There is a shortage of certified Latin teachers in the United States. Latin teaching positions at the precollegiate level sometimes cannot be filled for lack of qualified applicants. In New York State, for example, where we both teach, in 2012-2013 and 2013-2014, Latin was named specifically as a language with a teacher shortage by the United States Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education (http://tinyurl.com/mwgdr9j). Not filling a Latin position can result in one of several negative outcomes: the end of a Latin program, the inability to start one, or difficulty with sustaining one. None of these situations is good for maintaining strength in classics at the precollegiate level, where many of our students are first introduced to their excitement about our field. While the shortage does not affect every part of the country equally, it is sufficiently widespread to pose a significant threat. Unfortunately, the shortage at this point is not tracked in a systematic way. Even the report cited above is less useful than would be ideal, since states sometimes specify particular language area shortages, such as Latin, and other times just list World or Foreign Languages, generally, as a shortage area. Tracking of Latin, in particular, would be beneficial to our profession. Somewhat to our surprise, many classicists are not aware of the teacher shortage. Our purpose in writing this piece is to remedy that.
If we want Latin to continue to thrive at the precollegiate level, we need first to make people aware of the fact that there is a teacher shortage. Then, we need to spread the word that getting certified to teach Latin can lead to the beginning of a wonderful and rewarding career in classics education. Teaching at the secondary school level allows one to share one’s love of Latin, while helping young people to grow in one’s chosen subject area, but also more broadly. Many professional classicists were first inspired by an outstanding Latin teacher, while those who do not pursue classics professionally, obviously the majority of secondary school students, benefit in all kinds of ways from the Latin instruction they receive. Whether it is familiarity with myth and literature from classical antiquity or the Latin roots of English words or the impact of Greco-Roman culture on contemporary society or the intricacies of an inflected language, these are all things that a precollegiate teacher teaches, as he or she spreads the knowledge of and influence of classics widely.
To pursue this exciting career, though, certain steps need to be taken. Certification (or licensure, as it is sometimes called) is not a process familiar to all classicists. It includes coursework and qualifying exams, varying from state to state, that are beneficial to anyone planning to teach at the precollegiate level. Preparing to teach at this level involves further study in the subject area (Latin), instruction about adolescents, and training in teaching techniques. Thus gaining certification can be an added benefit and credential, even for those who may choose to teach in independent schools instead of public schools. For those who want to teach in public schools or even want to have that option, certification is required. The same is largely true of teaching in charter schools, although there may be flexibility in some cases. The overall requirements for Latin teacher certification or licensure are specific to each state. For information about requirements, see the following link on the Education page of the Society for Classical Studies website: http://tinyurl.com/nchfvo7. Since these requirements are constantly being modified and some of the information at this link may have been superseded, it is essential to seek out the most current information from the state’s department of education. For a more extensive treatment of the benefits of acquiring Latin certification, one may consult Ronnie Ancona, “Latin Teacher Certification: Training Future Secondary School Teachers,” Classical World 102.3 (2009): 311-15.
The Society for Classical Studies (formerly the American Philological Association) recently updated its excellent brochure on careers for classicists. We recommend this as required reading for all classicists, whether students, educators, or independent scholars, who want to explore or help their students to explore what one can do with an undergraduate classics degree. It is particularly useful for its practical and realistic discussion of the paths to and the nature of teaching at the college level vs. the secondary school level. See Kenneth F. Kitchell, Jr., Careers for Classicists in Today’s World, Philadelphia, PA (2012): http://tinyurl.com/or545dj. We also recommend The Guide to Graduate Programs in the Classics, a publication of the APA (now SCS) Education Committee, which may be of use to those seeking to obtain an MA or MAT in addition to certification: http://tinyurl.com/nvn3v5d. Some states, like our home base of New York, do not require a Master’s degree initially, but the degree must be obtained within a certain time period to gain a professional teaching certificate. Finally, a number of classics organizations offer financial support to those seeking Latin certification. The Society for Classical Studies is one of those. See the description of the Zeph Stewart Latin Teacher Training Awards: http://tinyurl.com/njpllmu.
I, Ronnie Ancona, have directed the Latin MA program at Hunter College, which provides a graduate degree as well as certification, for over twenty years. I am often contacted by schools in the greater New York City area looking for certified Latin teachers for their programs. The demand is often greater than the supply of certified teachers. Positions may go unfilled or schools may have fewer candidates to choose from than they would like. (Informal surveying conducted by us of current Latin teachers in New York City has confirmed this.) In our MA program, most students can and do start teaching before they have even received their degrees through employment at independent schools or at charter schools, where certification may not be required for all faculty members. In addition, some have taught under a New York State Internship Certificate, which allows students who have completed one half of a teacher education program and have passed certain exams to teach in public schools, as long as they are observed by their teacher education program institution through a practicum course. While some students prefer to attend our graduate program full-time and to look for jobs later, many choose to begin teaching while still in our program. If they do, they can take a practicum course instead of student teaching, which provides feedback on their paid teaching, rather than on their performance as unpaid student teachers.
At Maspeth High School, I, Kathleen Durkin, have found that while a great number of applicants apply for our available positions each year (we have hired five Latin teachers in three years as our program has expanded), many in that applicant pool have often not fulfilled all or even any of the requirements to teach Latin in New York State, making them ineligible for our positions. Many individuals can teach in New York State through interstate reciprocity, if certification has been achieved in another state. However, since many states do not have the same requirements, these restraints allow us to look closely at only a small population of interested candidates, as we are bound by the requirements of the state and by the New York City Department of Education’s hiring practices. This results in having to set aside the resumes of qualified PhD applicants and other graduates in the field who are not certified, despite their excellent knowledge of content, and sometimes years of teaching experience. The number of Latin teaching positions in New York City public and charter schools has risen in recent years as new schools like Maspeth, The Brooklyn Latin School, and Williamsburg Charter High School have appeared on the scene, all requiring Latin. To provide qualified teachers to such schools, there need to be in place qualified applicants.
According to Cynthia White, Director of the Placement Service of the American Classical League, there are currently (as of April 2015) 125 jobs listed on the American Classical League to start in the fall of 2015. (The Placement Service lists job notices at no cost to schools: http://tinyurl.com/o5mhyee; in addition, job candidates who are members of ACL can post their resumes for prospective employers to see.) This number is likely to rise, since some schools do not advertise positions until late spring. As of this writing, job openings in the double digits are listed for Arizona, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Texas. This confirms the presence of secondary school Latin jobs over a broad geographical area. Many schools only advertise very locally, thus missing out on potential applicants who may not learn of their job openings. Hiring efforts can be frustrated either because of the lack of available candidates or a school’s perception (whether accurate or not) that there is such a lack. I, Ronnie Ancona, have often been contacted by administrators at schools looking for Latin teachers who are very grateful to learn of this resource when made aware of it. We need to help publicize the Placement Service and any other resources which publicly post these positions.
We would both like to ensure that those already in the classics profession as well as those who are considering careers in classics know of the Latin teacher shortage. We need a continuing supply of excellent certified teachers to sustain our precollegiate level public and charter school Latin programs.
What can you do? Consider contacting collegiate classics programs in your area (including PhD-granting institutions) and consider working with interested undergraduate and graduate students to inform them of and to aid them in achieving the necessary certificate for teaching Latin. Take a few minutes each year during National Latin Teacher Recruitment Week (the first full week in March) or at another time to talk about teaching Latin at the secondary school level. You can even apply for a bit of funding to host an event promoting precollegiate level Latin teaching: http://promotelatin.org/nltrw. Finally, please help us to promote the idea that teaching at the precollegiate level should be an important option for budding classicists to consider and that one may find a fulfilling job in the profession through this route—at least in certain parts of the country—without too much difficulty. We need the best and the brightest at all levels of classics teaching to continue to have a vibrant classics community.
Ronnie Ancona is professor of Classics at Hunter College and the CUNY Graduate Center, New York. She is immediate past Vice President for Education of the American Philological Association, and has over twenty years of experience directing the Master of Arts in the teaching of Latin program at Hunter College. She has published on Latin poetry and classics pedagogy. She is currently president of the Classical Association of the Atlantic States. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kathleen Durkin has taught in public, private, and charter schools in the New York City area. She co-founded the Latin program at New York City’s classical public high school, Maspeth High School, and will begin teaching this fall at Garden City High School on Long Island. She is also an adjunct lecturer in Latin Education at Hunter College and recently served as Vice President of the New York Classical Club. She can be reached at email@example.com.