One of the two winners of the 2013 American Philological Association Pre-Collegiate Teacher Award is Mary Jo Behrensmeyer, who teaches Latin at Mount Vernon High School in Mount Vernon, Ohio.
Mrs. Behrensmeyer received Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Education degrees, both with majors in Classical Studies, from Indiana University. Since 1985 she has taught at Mount Vernon, which has the second highest Latin enrollment in the state of Ohio and 50% of the student body on free and reduced lunch. She regularly teaches overloads without extra pay, including a 6:30 AM class called X hour intended to give 8th graders a head start at the high school. In a school that offers Spanish, Mandarin, and French, in addition to Latin, Latin is the only language that becomes “closed” due to overwhelming enrollment numbers.
Mrs. Behrensmeyer recently served as a President of the Ohio Classical Conference and now is their Secretary/Treasurer. She won the Leona Glenn Outstanding World Language Educator Award from the Ohio Foreign Language Association, the Knox Country Excellence in Education Award not once, but twice, and was named the Mount Vernon Educator of the Year in 1998. She also won the Hildesheim Vase Award for Outstanding Latin Teacher/Program in Ohio—again, twice.
Mrs. Behrensmeyer’s nomination came from someone very close to her, her son Matthew, himself now a Latin teacher. He has always been impressed by her success and by her dedication: “I can personally attest to the fact that she arrives at her classroom no later than 5:00 a.m., readjusts the classroom material to fit the needs, questions, and concerns of the day before, and grades…papers (24 hours for quizzes, 48 hours for tests).”
Mrs. Behrensmeyer is a prodigious grant writer; she has won grants for her own professional development to France, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Egypt, and Israel through the Vergilian Society, the Classical Association of the Middle West and South, the American Classical League, the Fulbright-Hays program, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. About these trips she says, “That I not only ‘teach’ Latin, but also ‘do’ Latin, encourages my students to leave the rolling hills and Amish buggies of Knox County, to explore the world(s) beyond, and to seek and fulfill their own dreams.”
More importantly, she has also won more than a dozen grants directly related to the enrichment of her students over the years. In 2011 she started a program for her Latin 3 students to create mosaics with the handicapped students of Knox County. This fall she won a Harry Wilks Fellowship from the Vergilian Society to help twelve of her students travel to Italy.
The parents who wrote on her behalf were grateful for the enthusiasm Mrs. Behrensmeyer instilled in their children, both for Latin and for learning itself, and for her high quality of instruction. They are grateful not only that she demands excellent study habits from her students but also that she knows how to help a child develop those habits. The former students who wrote letters in support of Mrs. Behrensmeyer attest to her giving up free periods to teach extra classes, designing additional courses for students who have exhausted her regular curriculum, and inspiring them by never ceasing in her own efforts to learn and grow. One student says, “She frequently exhorted her students, ‘when you learn, you learn for life,’ and because of her I learned to value hard work, inquisitiveness, and a passion for learning.”
We are pleased to recognize Mrs. Mary Jo Behrensmeyer as a recipient of the 2013 APA Pre-Collegiate Teaching Award for her distinguished career of service and teaching.
Joint Committee on the Classics in American Education Subcommittee on the Pre-Collegiate Teaching Award