2018 Precollegiate Teaching Award Winners

The Society is delighted to announce this year's winners of the awards for Excellence in the Teaching of Classics at the Precollegiate Level.  We congratulate Susan Meyer and Thomas J. (TJ) Howell, who will both receive their awards at the Plenary Session in San Diego. You can read their citations below:

Thomas J. Howell Citation

Thomas J. Howell likes to describe his vision of teaching as “one that marries innovative language pedagogy to deep exploration of topics in an environment where language and humanistic study is welcomed and supported.” Currently at Northampton High School, Massachusetts, Thomas or “TJ”, as his students know him, has taught Latin at the secondary level since 2000. He has developed a highly creative approach to Latin instruction within a four-skills framework. His students are drawn in through “compelling, high-quality, culturally relevant comprehensible input texts”, from Harrius Potter and the incomparable Commentarii de inepto puero (anglice: Diary of a Wimpy Kid) to the Bayeux Tapestry and Catullus. As he likes to tell them, “Latin isn’t a puzzle to be decoded – it’s a language that can be read and understood without translation just like any other.” One of his novel approaches is to adopt hand signs from an instructional system designed to create new speakers for languages on the brink of extinction called “Where are your Keys” (WAYK). These allow students to express stress levels and comprehension, and thus help TJ “address their immediate emotional or intellectual needs without stopping class or drawing undue attention to themselves”. One of his favorite techniques is “Full Check,” where students can communicate to their readiness to acquire language. TJ explains, “If everyone is ‘full’ - perhaps they’re tired, or they’ve had a bad day, or they’re hungry - I’ll change my focus to review already familiar material or tell a myth or a fable”.

WAYK is an oral method and TJ takes presentational speaking, in the new Classical Language Learning Standards, very seriously. Beyond his own classroom, he has taught at the SALVI Rusticatio and Conventiculum Bostoniense for the last several summers, and recently started with the Biduum Minnesotanum. He is an inspiring example to his students. As one of his writers described it, “His command of the Latin language is impeccable and the breadth of his familiarity with Latin texts is simply stunning.” His students respond with enthusiasm. Another writer notes: “The walls of his classroom are decorated with narratives, paintings, projects, and other evidence of student enthusiasm for the subject and competence in the language, and I have seen students participate in a range of activities that indicate the considerable depth and breadth of TJ’s commitment to effective pedagogy”. TJ works hard to foster a sense of belonging. He throws all-student  banquets  to  celebrate  National  Latin  Exam  winners and creates projects that bring students together across levels, as when his Latin 2 class did a unit on oracles and the future tense and his level 5s wrote ambiguous answers to their questions. It is no surprise that students want to continue their Latin with TJ. As the teacher of middle school that feeds Northampton High writes, “since he began teaching in Northampton this fall, every parent and student who visits me has told me the same thing: they are loving Latin. They seem to be too busy getting caught up in real communication in the classroom to notice how hard they’re working and how much they’re improving”.

TJ has worked tirelessly to promote the Classics. In partnership with UMass-Boston, he has developed a dual enrollment program for Northampton and contributed significantly to the UMass teacher training program, mentoring no less than fourteen student teachers in their practicums while offering regular SLA workshops to their incoming students. He has contributed professional service all levels, serving as President of the Classical Association of Massachusetts, as CANE blog editor and board member, and as a member of the recent ACTFL committee to reconsider the new Standards for Classical Language Learning. Memorably described as “a master  teacher  and  a  consummate  professional”, TJ richly deserves a 2018 SCS Award for Excellence in Teaching at the Precollegiate Level.

Susan Meyer Citation

Susan “Magistra” Meyer has taught in Culbreth Middle School, Chapel Hill, since 2010. Her nominator’s words testify vividly to her talents: “Susan is a genius at what she does. If there were a MacArthur Award that accommodated Middle School teachers, I would nominate her for that.” As a more modest prize, the SCS is delighted to recognize Susan with an Excellence in Precollegiate Teaching Award.

The first of the many innovations Susan’s students and colleagues praise is a system she designed to encourage learning for its own sake and foster an inclusive, collaborative community. Fans of Harry Potter will recall the “House System” at Hogwarts. Magistra Susan took the concept of a ‘Latin family’ and created a ‘gens system’ that would randomly sort students into one of four Roman families (Claudians, Julians, Flavians, and Cornelians). Students earn famae or reputation points for their gens for positivity, personal growth, and the pursuit of academic opportunities. They might play Susan’s course on Memrise, a digital vocabulary game, on their bus ride home or make military standards, cartoons, stories, or charters for their gentes in Latin, or even come in early to tutor younger gens members. And yes, famae can be taken away for bad deeds, but on the other hand they are awarded generously when students continue to take Latin after middle school. Lavish famae are given to the gens of an alum who takes AP Latin. One million are awarded, if they become a Latin teacher.

Susan is taking retention to a new level. As she explains, her alumni “are active fixtures” in her classroom. As long as a student is the district, they can stay in the digital classroom until 12th grade. Alumni make posts encouraging their younger gens members to turn in missing work or to dress up for the biannual spirit day competition. They submit T-shirt designs with slogans like “The diem ain’t gonna carpe itself”. As a parent notes, “When you enter Ms. Meyer’s class in middle school, you are never her student for just a semester. You are her student for life. You become part of an intergenerational community of students, parents and teachers inspired by Ms. Meyer to love and enjoy learning together”. Susan’s outreach activities foster positive attitudes to Roman culture. Students and alumni flock to her annual study abroad trips. They also take part in community events. As one proud parent notes, “Magistra has recruited an army of nerds who put on togas and march each year in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro Holiday Parade and turn the high school theater into the Underworld on Halloween”. Students submit modern Latin-related items for the classroom “ROMA VIVIT” board or take on the “Passive Voice Challenge,” attempting to use nothing but the passive for an entire school day. They create “Wonderful Verba” etymology videos (for those who miss middle school humor, the video on “incendiarism” is must see) or they read articles on her Classical Tumblr page, amoRoma. A parent explains that “Magistra is completely fluent in the language, social media, and pop culture of her students”, and a ninth grade alumna may best encapsulate the experience of Susan’s classes: “I loved how she taught in such detail that after her class even after I left the school I still think on a regular bases about word origin and how language works. Magistra's class was not only a Latin class but a life class.”

This hasn’t come easy. Susan inherited a weak program, which she has grown from a couple of classes of two and nine students respectively to five full classes at an average of twenty to twenty-five students. Her program flourishes with a diverse population. As a former teacher writes, “Ms. Meyer’s students reflect the diversity of North Carolina public schools. Her students are black, brown and white and from a wide range of economic strata. Her classroom is a haven where they learn and thrive with students across grades, schools and various other social divides. Susan has long sought to “be the teacher that I needed when I was a kid” and has succeeded brilliantly. In the words of a parent, “Magistra Meyer was born to teach middle school Latin.”

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From the New York Times:

School was out, and Jack Kaufmann, who teaches 8th and 9th grade Latin at the elite Hewitt School in Manhattan, was on his way to catch the train home to Westchester.

That’s hardly surprising, except that Mr. Kaufmann is 71 years old and has been teaching for only the last three years. For much of the last 32 years, the dapper, silver-haired Mr. Kaufmann was a partner at the law firm Dewey Ballantine.

“I really enjoyed it,” he said of his law career, chatting over a quick coffee before heading home. “But at a certain point, I felt that I didn’t need to keep practicing.”

So in 2002 Mr. Kaufmann, who had enough money to retire comfortably, left the firm and began taking college classes. First he took a class on Chaucer, then another on the “Divine Comedy” by Dante and still another called Heresy in the Medieval World. He found the work so fascinating it led to a master’s degree in Classics (Latin and ancient Greek) at the City University of New York — and eventually to teaching jobs, first at the Browning School, then at Trevor Day and then at Hewitt.

Read more at: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/15/business/retirementspecial/retired-and-back-in-school-for-the-degree-not-just-the-fun.html

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Wed, 05/15/2013 - 3:07pm by Information Architect.

Four classics teachers have received the first set of APA Pedagogy Awards.  One of the major goals of the APA’s recently and successfully completed capital campaign, Gatekeeper to Gateway:  The Campaign for Classics in the Twenty-first Century, was to ensure that an inspiring, well trained teacher would be available for every school and college classics classroom.  A subcommittee of the Joint Committee on the Classics in American Education, whose membership is selected from both the APA and the American Classical League, reviewed twenty-one applications requesting funds to support a variety activities that would improve their teaching and their students’ experiences in the classroom.  The awards received by the four successful applicants are funded by income derived from the following contributions to the Campaign’s Research and Teaching Endowment:  a major gift from an anonymous donor, a contribution from the Classical Association of the Middle West and South (CAMWS), and donations to the Friends of Zeph Stewart Fund. 

Rachel Ash (North Gwinnett High School, Norcross, GA) was awarded $1,000 to pursue an M.A. in Latin through the University of Florida’s distance learning program.

Andrew Carroll (Regis Jesuit High School) was awarded $600 to develop a series of videos about Roman and Etruscan sites as part of a curricular revision introducing a ‘flipped’ or ‘inverted’ classroom.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Wed, 05/15/2013 - 1:25pm by Adam Blistein.

The Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) has released a report, It Takes More Than a Major: Employer Priorities for College Learning and Student Success, summarizing the findings of a national survey of business and nonprofit leaders. Among other things, the survey reveals that 74 percent of business and nonprofit leaders say they would recommend a twenty-first century liberal education to a young person they know in order to prepare for long-term professional success in today’s global economy.

“While policy leaders have been focused intensely on what college students are choosing as their majors and what salaries they are being paid shortly after they graduate, business leaders who actually hire college graduates are urging us to prioritize the cross-cutting capacities a college education should develop in every student, in every major,” said Mildred García, president of California State University, Fullerton and chair of AAC&U’s board of directors. “No matter what careers students seek, their college education must equip them with intercultural skills, ethical judgment, and a sophisticated understanding of the diversity of our society and of any successful business or organization.”

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Mon, 05/13/2013 - 2:54pm by Adam Blistein.

The National Humanities Center offers 40 residential fellowships for advanced study in the humanities for the period September 2014 through May 2015. Applicants must have doctorate or equivalent scholarly credentials. Young scholars as well as senior scholars are encouraged to apply, but they must have a record of publication, and new PhDs should be aware that the Center does not normally support the revision of a doctoral dissertation. In addition to scholars from all fields of the humanities, the Center accepts individuals from the natural and social sciences, the arts, the professions, and public life who are engaged in humanistic projects. The Center is also international and gladly accepts applications from scholars outside the United States.

Applicants submit the Center's form, supported by a curriculum vitae, a 1000-word project proposal, and three letters of recommendation. A downloadable application form and instructions may be found at the Center's website which contains more information about the Fellowships.  Applications and letters of recommendation must be postmarked by October 1, 2013.

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Mon, 05/13/2013 - 1:53pm by Adam Blistein.

We are very pleased to announce the creation of the Duke Collaboratory for Classics Computing (DC3), a new Digital Classics R&D unit embedded in the Duke University Libraries, whose start-up has been generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Duke University’s Dean of Arts & Sciences and Office of the Provost.

The DC3 goes live 1 July 2013, continuing a long tradition of collaboration between the Duke University Libraries and papyrologists in Duke’s Department of Classical Studies. The late Professors William H. Willis and John F. Oates began the Duke Databank of Documentary Papyri (DDbDP) more than 30 years ago, and in 1996 Duke was among the founding members of the Advanced Papyrological Information System (APIS). In recent years, Duke led the Mellon-funded Integrating Digital Papyrology effort, which brought together the DDbDP, Heidelberger Gesamtverzeichnis der Griechischen Papyrusurkunden Ägyptens (HGV), and APIS in a common search and collaborative curation environment (papyri.info), and which collaborates with other partners, including Trismegistos, Bibliographie Papyrologique, Brussels Coptic Database, and the Arabic Papyrology Database.

The DC3 team will see to the maintenance and enhancement of papyri.info data and tooling, cultivate new partnerships in the papyrological domain, experiment in the development of new complementary resources, and engage in teaching and outreach at Duke and beyond.

View full article. | Posted in General Announcements on Thu, 05/09/2013 - 1:16am by .

Bill Kemeza of Boston College High School reports the death of long-time APA member Brian P. Donaher

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Tue, 05/07/2013 - 5:02pm by Adam Blistein.

The International Federation of the Societies of Classical Studies (FIEC) has posted a second announcement with more details about its 14th International Congress to be held in Bordeaux (France) from Monday 25th August to Saturday 30th August 2014. This meeting in Bordeaux will give classicists from around the world and at all stages of their careers the opportunity to gather and provide an overview of the most recent research in classical studies.

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Fri, 05/03/2013 - 2:19pm by Adam Blistein.

APA Member Tommye Lou Davis has fond memories of Robert Griffin III of Baylor and now the Washington Redskins - as a Latin student

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Fri, 05/03/2013 - 2:06pm by Adam Blistein.

University of South Carolina
16th Annual Comparative Literature Conference
February 26-March 2, 2014

  • What is translation? Is it a signifying process? A transfer of knowledge? Or the dissemination of tradition itself?
  • What are the grounds of comparison between noncognate traditions?
  • How are classics received within their own traditions and within other traditions?
  • How does translation relate to local commentarial traditions?
  • How do the translation of the classics relate to project of cosmopolitanism?
  • How do new media affect the transmission of the classics?
  • Are Plato and Aristotle to the postwar West as Confucius and Lao Tzu are to postrevolutionary China?

Classical texts routinely engage the poetic, the political, the social, historical, the religious, and the philosophical without drawing clear boundaries between them. Seeking papers from these and other disciplines, this conference asks how the reception of the classics in both China and the West informs and serves to transform the modern world. When and why do cultures access traditions beyond their bounds and how does that cross fertilization work? We seek papers and participants engaging in dialogues ranging across disciplines and cultures.

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Thu, 05/02/2013 - 12:41pm by .

All three recipients of Ovationes at this year’s meeting of CAMWS in Iowa City were APA members.  They were Robert W. Cape, Austin College; S. Douglas Olson, University of Minnesota; and Mary Pendergraft, Wake Forest University.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Wed, 05/01/2013 - 4:35pm by Adam Blistein.

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