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2020 Awards for Excellence in Teaching at the Precollegiate Level (three winners)

Marisa Alimento

Marisa Alimento knows that “Latin isn’t inherently elitist” – in her own words. For nearly thirty years she has taught the middle school children at Crossroads School in Santa Monica Latin, Greek, Mythology, Math, Gardening (and more…) while working to build and nurture diversity. “As a powerful woman of color”, one of her colleagues writes, “she has been an invaluable support for all the students of color, but especially the Asian and Filipino girls…she has always been a leader in social justice events for the community”. Her work includes everything from coaching students on how to deal with microaggressions to creating a “deep-dive unit to address enslavement in the Roman world, specifically in the Cambridge Latin Course, and to emphasize the inhumanity of the practice throughout time and geography, with readings from Frederick Douglass and poems of Phyllis Wheatley…excerpts from Te-Nehisi Coates, articles and videos about the Uighur population of China, the shrimp industry in Thailand, tomato pickers in Florida, and whatever students…shared with the class”. One alumna writes, “I feel strongly that if more of my classmates had received this type of instruction as their first exposure to Classics, the field would [feel] more accessible to them as undergraduates”.

Magistra Alimento’s impact is hard to overstate. Her students have gone on to win Certamen championships at the local, state, and national levels. Many have won honors, and even achieved perfect scores, on the National Latin Exam and gone on to become NLE honorees in high school, as an alumna notes. Magistra Alimento is especially good at empowering her students to become leaders and she runs her Latin classes with the goal of making the language accessible to all students and relevant to a modern audience. Famous for her lively classes, she teaches grammar with songs, games, and physical gestures. “Just flapping my arms like a bat,” she writes, “reminds students of the imperfect -bat”. She regularly performs her “Imperfect

Tense Song” at the Crossroads Cabaret Fundraiser show. As her head of school writes, “She is the master of the game, creating games and silly routines that add levity to the significant challenges and intellectual work that students are accustomed to in her classroom”. She is famous for her peanut brittle too. As we all know, Latin teachers have many talents.

We are honored to recognize Marisa Alimento for her outstanding teaching with the SCS’s 2020 Award for Excellence in Teaching of the Classics at the Precollegiate Level.


Lynn LiCalsi

“Never get stuck in your ways,” writes Lynn LiCalsi, “and remember that we teach children, who are growing and changing at all times; be respectful, kind, and compassionate. Keep the door open for everyone, and let Latin work its magic”. Ms. LiCalsi knows plenty about magic. Starting in 2001, she has built a thriving Latin program at Fairview High School in Boulder from scratch – up to and including an International Baccalaureate class. One of her many creative techniques to maintain enrollments is to invite students from various Middle schools to attend Fairview twice monthly in order to learn Latin from her high school students. The personal connections, she notes, benefit everyone. “[The] younger students liked coming up to the high school Latin class and [the] high school students enjoyed taking the lead and teaching a small group”.

A Latin teacher since 1981, Ms. LiCalsi has learned to embrace change in order to make Latin accessible to all. She was an early adopter of the reading method. “Latin was a language after all, not a chart”, she notes. “Reading texts aloud, acting out stories, rewriting stories, and discussing texts in simple Latin engaged learners of all ability levels. A colleague reminisces about her “her legendary closet…full of Latin textbooks of every era and description,” which she collected so students could all find an engaging passage to read. “Lynn wants her students to fall in love with Latin, and they do. Why? Reading, reading, and more reading!”. Her transition to comprehensible input was a natural one, but she found that many available readings were fun but “not meaningful in the way that grabs students’ attention…or prompts real-world discussions” and so she solved this problem by writing and publishing her own remarkable 287 page story of a young Jewish girl named Eliana, who escapes with her mother to Masada, after the destruction of the Second Temple. “Many years later, another character, Naomi, completes the narrative about the final struggle between Romans and Jews during the Bar Kochba Revolt. The book concludes with Hadrian's proclamations”. Provincia Iudaea, a wonderful supplementary reader for beginning and intermediate students, lavishly illustrated by Ms. LiCalsi herself and her students, engages, informs and invites in depth reflection.

“Rare is the Latin teacher whose academic brilliance is accompanied by fierce dedication to continued learning, deep appreciation of the gifts of all of her students, and surpassing creativity,” writes her nominator. Ms. LiCalsi embodies the best qualities of the profession. We are honored to recognize her for her outstanding teaching with the SCS’s 2020 Award for Excellence in Teaching of the Classics at the Precollegiate Level.


Nathalie Roy

Nathalie Roy believes that all students…should have a chance to study the classical world, not just through the narrow lens of language, but through a broader view which includes physical processes and products. This is why her middle school students learn to mix, set and test the tensile strength of ancient Roman concrete based on the recipe of Pliny the Elder, grind wheat and bake grape must biscuits from a recipe by Cato the Elder, and orient and plot an analemmatic sundial based on the writings of Vitruvius.

Magistra Roy, who teaches at Glasgow Middle School in Baton Rouge, has taught all levels of Latin, from middle school through AP, for 26 years. She is distinguished both for her creativity in teaching STEM skills through Classics and for her ability to engage and effectively teach a diverse student population. 84% of the student body at Glasgow consists of students of color. “Because most of the students at my school score poorly on standardized tests,” she writes, “many are excluded from taking a second language like Latin. Thus, I developed classes which appealed to and allowed for success for ALL types of student learners.”.

Students have long flocked to her famous “Roman Technology” class, where they read the Latin of ancient STEM authors and apply what they’ve learned. For her middle schoolers, she created a course where students read classical mythology to spark maker projects. In “Classical Myth Makers,” she writes, “We have built and tested catapults, aqueducts, water screws, designed and fired kilns for pottery and bread, counted on abaci, fashioned bullae out of leather, arranged hair and mixed facial masks, and cut stone tesserae to create mosaics.” Magistra Roy’s hand-on methodology helps her students experience the daily life of real Romans – women, enslaved people, freed people, and those from all over the empire – and her methods deliver measurable results. She proudly notes: “although most of my students had never been exposed to classical mythology, 63% of students at Approaching Basic or Basic levels of competency on the National Mythology exam rose to 89% at Mastery or Advanced.”

During this unique and terrible year, Magistra Roy has showed her stellar qualities as a teacher. In the words of a current student, “when the world descended into chaos, Ms. Roy let us know that her first priority was to keep us safe and feeling loved. And she did exactly that. Throughout this crazy year she has never wavered, never backed down from that ultimate goal… Ms. Roy isn’t just a teacher - she’s our champion.”

We are honored to recognize her for her outstanding teaching with the SCS’s 2020 Award for Excellence in Teaching of the Classics at the Precollegiate Level.