This year’s winner of the American Philological Association’s Pre-Collegiate Teaching Award is Max Gabrielson. Mr. Gabrielson left a successful career in law to teach classics in the public system, first at Ridgefield High School and then at Wilton High School. Over the course of the past decade, he has expanded the Latin program at Wilton High School; more remarkably, he has built a Greek program ex nihilo from two students in 2001 to the present cohort of over thirty. He has done this entirely outside the regular class schedule, offering three levels of Greek before and after the school day, and often continuing instruction into the summer break. His advanced level students read and enjoy Homer, Plato and Greek tragedy. As one recommender remarked, “He willed it [the Greek program] into being by persevering, working overtime, and taking no shortcuts. He attracted already overworked students by promising them even more hard work – and great rewards.”
The rigor that his students appreciate in his teaching is coupled with a passion for the languages that his students soon come to experience for themselves. One former student who credits him as the reason why she went on to major in classics says of his teaching: “To live and breathe your passion is something few will ever accomplish, but Mr. Gabrielson does it every day, and it is that pure thrill of reading the classics in their original language that he imparted to our class.” The comments of another former student concur: “His teaching started from the position that these languages were a thing of great beauty, complexity and subtlety and to present them as anything else would diminish these qualities... Mr. Gabrielson expected his students to love the languages as if we were his peers, and yet he made it clear that nothing of this love was to be accepted on faith alone.”
Mr. Gabrielson is a tireless champion of Latin and Greek. He managed to secure the inclusion of ancient Greek in the Poetry Recitation Contest organized by the Connecticut Organization of Language Teachers, in which a thousand students participate and now get the opportunity to be exposed to ancient Greek. For the past seven years, he has served as Associate Editor of the American Classical League Newsletter. And he writes stirring editorials in his local newspaper with titles such as “Why Greek should be taught in all high schools” and “Why teaching the Classics is still relevant.” Mr. Gabrielson’s students join him in spreading the word. In an article published in the Wilton Bulletin titled “Learning ancient Greek is definitely no tragedy”, one of his students describes her joy as she translates Homer’s Iliad: “It is a wonderful feeling to extract meaning from chaos. The text lies in front of me, a puzzle, and I get to make sense of it. It does not matter that the text has been translated numerous times by better scholars. When I translate, I experience the beauty of the text first hand. It becomes my own personal Iliad: Homer through my voice, through my words. Nothing could be more satisfying.”
We too experience deep satisfaction in recognizing with the 2010 Pre-Collegiate Teaching Award Mr. Max Gabrielson, an inspiring teacher and vigorous advocate of classics in whom sapientia and eloquentia converge.
Eric K. Dugdale