The Society for Classical Studies is pleased to honor Dr. Robert Patrick with the 2014 Award for Excellence in Teaching at the Precollegiate Level. Dr. Patrick has taught Latin for the past decade at Parkview High School in Lilburn, GA, where he is also Chair of the Foreign Language Department. Dr. Patrick’s work in employing communicative methods and comprehensible input (CI) theory in the Latin classroom is nothing short of groundbreaking. For his teaching and scholarship, he has been recognized by many regional and national associations: in 2009, he was named Teacher of the Year at Parkview High School; in 2011, the Georgia Classics Association awarded him Georgia Latin Teacher of the Year; in 2012 and 2013, he earned similar awards from the Foreign Language Association of Georgia and the Southern Conference on Language Learning; last year, the American Classical League presented him with a Meritus Award. The SCS is proud to join these organizations in honoring Dr. Patrick as a true teacher-scholar.
Dr. Patrick’s work proves that pedagogical innovation is more than just having the right intuitions in the classroom; it also comes from using the vast stores of research about how human beings learn and applying that knowledge in a local setting. Early in his career, Dr. Patrick was frustrated by traditional methods of teaching Latin, which he felt served only a small, self-selecting group of students. Inspired by linguistic and cognitive theories, he radically transformed his approach to teaching Latin and saw that student success and retention immediately improved. As he himself notes, “I have become convinced that all kinds of learners can acquire the Latin language. I have studied helpful language acquisition theories founded on the natural development of first languages and the cues they provide in the acquisition of second languages.”
With these linguistic methods, Dr. Patrick encourages his students to view Latin as a living, vibrant language. As one of them remarks, “I quickly understood spoken Latin and knew how to use the imperative, not even knowing what the imperative mood was. He taught us all sorts of items in the classroom. Speaking Latin made it so exciting. He taught vocabulary by acting it out, which made it easier to remember. We were actively learning, rather than just translating passages. He made Latin come alive.” Such excitement for Dr. Patrick’s approach has been contagious. Since he arrived at Parkview High School, Latin enrollments have more than doubled and the school has been able to hire a second full-time Latin teacher.
What is perhaps most noteworthy about Dr. Patrick is his commitment to mentoring other Latin teachers. In addition to numerous conference and workshop presentations, both here and abroad, Dr. Patrick has worked with John Piazza to create the Latin Best Practices list serve, a global forum for teachers to reflect upon their own teaching and share ideas about improving their work in the classroom. In other words, Dr. Patrick does more than just study pedagogical theories and apply them to his work in the classroom; he models the daily reflection we should all undertake to make our teaching as beneficial and rewarding as possible.
Joint Committee on Classics in American Education Subcommittee