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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In The New York Times on April 5, David Brooks asks a fundamental question: “What is a university for?” (“The Practical University”, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/05/opinion/Brooks-The-Practical-University.html?ref=davidbrooks&_r=0).  In answering, he distinguishes between “two sorts of knowledge, what the philosopher Michael Oakeshott called technical knowledge and practical knowledge”.  Basically, “technical knowledge” is “the sort of knowledge you need to understand a task”, “like the recipes in a cookbook”, whereas “practical knowledge” is a kind of “practical moral wisdom”, absorbed rather than memorized, acquired and sustained through practice.  According to Brooks, the online revolution in education will have its main effect in the domain of “technical knowledge”, and the real “future of the universities is in practical knowledge”. 

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Mon, 04/15/2013 - 7:56pm by Adam Blistein.

The program for the 2013 edition of the Symposium Cumanum (June 25-27) has been set. If you would like to attend please use the link below. One can also send queries to
charles.gladhill@mcgill.ca
.

http://www.vergiliansociety.org/symposium_cumanum/

“Aeneid Six and Its Cultural Reception”

Villa Vergiliana, Cumae and the University of Naples Federico II, Italy
June 25-27

Sponsored by The Vergilian Society, Harry Wilks Study Center,  Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici University of Naples Federico  II,   British Virgil Society, McGill University,
Accademia Virgiliana di Mantova.

Program

June 24

Cocktails (7:00pm) and Dinner (7:30pm)

June 25

Breakfast (7:30 am)

Greetings and Introduction (9:30-1030)

Session one (10:30-11:45): Pasts of Aeneid Six

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Mon, 04/15/2013 - 2:35pm by .

The deadline for all submissions to the APA Program Committee except individual abstracts is this Friday, April 12, at 5:00 pm Eastern Time.  (The individual abstract deadline is Wednesday, May 1.)  To make a submission you must be an APA member in good standing for 2013 and create an account at this year's APA program submission system.  Please note these important items.

1.  You must create an account on the program submission system.  It does not automatically contain an account you may have created on the APA's members' only page or on the placement system site. 

2.  The program submission system will not permit you to create an account if you are not in good standing.  If you have not yet paid dues for 2013, and you want to make a submission by the April 12 deadline, you must pay your dues by the close of business tomorrow, Wednesday, April 10 and then wait until Friday, April 12, to make your program submission.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Tue, 04/09/2013 - 9:33pm by Adam Blistein.

The New York Times has just published an article on Nuntii Latini the weekly newscast in Latin produced by the Finnish Broadcasting Company.

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Tue, 04/09/2013 - 4:51pm by Adam Blistein.

The International Plutarch Society announces its 10th international congress , to be held on the topic SPACE, TIME AND LANGUAGE IN PLUTARCH’S VISIONS OF GREEK CULTURE: INTROVERSION, IMPERIAL COSMOPOLITANISM AND OTHER FORMS OF INTERACTION WITH THE PAST AND PRESENT. The conference, organized by the University of Patras, will take place at the European Cultural Centre in Delphi, 16-18 May, 2014. For more information contact: Aristoula Georgiadou (University of Patras) ageorgia.gm@gmail.com or Katerina Oikonomopoulou (Humboldt University of Berlin) katerina.oikonomopoulou@gmail.com. See the pdf for more information).

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Fri, 04/05/2013 - 3:54pm by .

On behalf of Ruth Scodel:

With great sadness we announce the untimely death of Kathryn Bosher, from metastatic lung cancer.  Kathryn came to Michigan from the University of Toronto in 1998 and finished her PhD in 2006.  She was an assistant professor at Northwestern and was going to start a new position at OSU in August 2013.

Kate’s great love was the theater, and the center of her scholarly work was the Greek theater in Sicily and Magna Graecia.  In 2012 she published Theatre Outside Athens:  drama in South Italy and Sicily, proceedings of a conference she organized at Northwestern.  Nobody who saw the production of Aristophanes’ Assemblywomen that she directed for the 2008 Feminism and Classics conference will forget it.

Nobody who had the good fortune to know her will forget her kindness, joy in life, and modesty.  She could even seem diffident, but she had the drive to row in national competitions in single sculls, and her scholarly arguments were energetic as well as thoughtful.  We will miss her, and we offer our deepest condolences to her husband Dale and her young son Ernest.

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Thu, 03/28/2013 - 12:54pm by .

APA Member, Christopher B. Krebs, Stanford University, has won Phi Beta Kappa's Christian Gauss Award for his work Most Dangerous Book: Tacitus’s Germania from the Roman Empire to the Third Reich.  Phi Beta Kappa has given the Gauss Award since 1950 for books in the field of literary scholarship and criticism. 

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Thu, 03/21/2013 - 2:01pm by Adam Blistein.

The Department of Classics at the University of California Berkeley reports with sadness the death of Charles Murgia.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Fri, 03/08/2013 - 7:48pm by Adam Blistein.

There has been a lot of talk in the US recently about the importance of encouraging the study of the so-called STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).  In the UK, the civil service has long been advocating such an emphasis on STEM, although it is revealing that in the US people still tend to focus on whether this or that education is a good “investment” for the individual, whereas in Britain the government agencies are more concerned with which education is best for society as a whole (on “investment” as the wrong metaphor in the first place, see Bob Connor’s recent post).

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Wed, 03/06/2013 - 8:40pm by Adam Blistein.

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