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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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.

National Latin Teacher Recruitment Week asks as many educators as possible across the nation (and beyond!) to find one day to talk to their students about becoming secondary Latin teachers. NLTRW was created to address the Latin teacher shortage that we are facing in this country. The demand for Latin continues to grow, in great measure due to our own best efforts to raise awareness about the importance and richness of the study of Latin. Now that we have created the demand, it is time to create the teachers.  NLTRW is scheduled for the first full week in March, but if you cannot speak to your students that week due to testing or holidays or whatever, just pick another day of another week. The most important thing is to talk to your students about becoming teachers.  For more information, including ideas, free posters to download, and funding opportunities, point your browser to promotelatin.org and click on the NLTRW link.
 
Ronnie Ancona
APA VP for Education

View full article. | Posted in General Announcements on Wed, 03/06/2013 - 1:25am by .

Deadline: August 31, 2013

With the goal of promoting and encouraging a critical reflection on the permanence of personages, values and perspectives from the ancient and medieval world(s) in western literature and culture, the Research Area "Classical Antiquity: Texts and Contexts" of the Center for Classical Studies, in collaboration with the Center of History, of the Faculty of Letters of the University of Lisbon, is organising an international conference on "Violence in the Ancient and Medieval World".

The conference, to be held February 17-19, 2014, aims at bringing together different fields of research to deal with the theme of violence and its multiple interpretations, representations and narratives in the ancient and medieval worlds.

Having in mind this interdisciplinary approach, the international conference "Violence in the Ancient and Medieval World" has the purpose of:

  • approaching the criteria/standards of violence in the historical and literary contexts of Antiquity and the Middle Ages;
  • examining representations and readings of violence in literature and material culture;
  • pondering the ancient and medieval worlds as stages of violence in its various manifestations.

Abstracts

The conference organisers invite paper proposals on the topic "Violence in the Ancient and Medieval World". We welcome abstracts on the following subtopics from all social and human sciences:

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Sat, 03/02/2013 - 7:30pm by .

The Institute for Advance Study School of Historical Studies presents Opportunities for Scholars for 2014-2015.  The Institute is an independent private institution founded in 1930 to create a community of scholars focused on intellectual inquiry, free from teaching and other university obligations.  Classics is one of the School’s principal interests, but the program is open to all fields of historical research.   Scholars from around the world come to the Institute to pursue their own research.  Candidates of any nationality may apply for a single term or a full academic year.  Scholars may apply for a stipend, but those with sabbatical funding, other grants, retirement funding or other means are also invited to apply for a non-stipendiary membership.  The Institute provides access to extensive resources including offices, libraries, subsidized restaurant and housing facilities, and some secretarial services.  Residence in Princeton during term time is required.  The only other obligation of Members is to pursue their own research.  The Ph.D. (or equivalent) and substantial publications are required.  Information and application forms may be found on the School's web site, or contact the School of Historical Studies, Institute for Advanced Study, Einstein Dr., Princeton, N.J. 08540 (E-mail address:mzelazny@ias.edu).  Deadline: November 1, 2013.

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Fri, 03/01/2013 - 7:04pm by Adam Blistein.

An important “Roundtable of links” on “the value of the Humanities” has just been set up by James Grossman, the Executive Director of the American Historical Association; I urge members to have a look at the range of articles and opinion pieces there.  This is an important initiative at a time when—as Grossman puts it—“politicians and business leaders across the country have sharply attacked humanistic and social science disciplines as not only frivolous (an old charge as pertaining to the humanities) but also a waste of taxpayers’ money and students’ time”.  You can access a variety of papers on this site, including one by APA member Peter Burian.  I am sure you will find much ammunition there for your own debates with students and their parents, with administrators and colleagues in other disciplines.  It is heartening to see such spirited and well-informed advocacy for the intrinsic value and the social importance of the humanistic and social science disciplines.  But we will have to keep making that case.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Tue, 02/26/2013 - 7:51pm by Adam Blistein.

From The Baltimore Sun:

Georg H.B. Luck, whose career teaching the classics at the Johns Hopkins University spanned two decades and included studying the role magic and witchcraft played in the theology and world of the ancient Greeks and Romans, died Sunday from complications of cancer at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson.

He was 87 and a longtime resident of the city's Poplar Hill neighborhood.

"Georg was a modest man who had great gusto for the things that interested him," said Richard A. Macksey, a noted Baltimore bibliophile and professor of humanities at Hopkins. "He was the kind of person who could interest the general public in what might appear to many to be very dry work. He saw the relationship between theology, witchcraft and magic."

"He was a pioneer in the study of magic and witchcraft in the theology of the ancient Greeks and Romans," said Matthew B. Roller, a professor and former chairman of the classics department at Hopkins. "It was the first serious study and he collected all of the material."

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Sun, 02/24/2013 - 4:45pm by .

Silius Italicus Poetry and Historiography, a Conference at Washington University in St. Louis, March 23rd 2013, 10AM-4:30PM.  After a long and varied career as a lawyer and politician, Silius Italicus devoted his last years to the writing of poetry. During the reign of Domitian (81-96 CE) he composed an extensive epic on the Second Punic War, choosing the third decade of Livy as his main source and Virgil’s Aeneid as the predominant epic model. Silius’ poetic achievements have not met with much approval over the centuries: for many modern scholars, his work has been a classic example of a rather slavish and uninspired form of imitatio. During the last few decades, however, a reappraisal has taken place, and scholars have begun to appreciate the striking originality of Silius’ approach to his topic.

The papers of this conference will focus on an important part of this new appreciation: aspects of Silius’ relationship to the older historiographical and epic tradition that have not previously been appreciated. They will not only provide new insights for specialists, but they will also present a lively introduction both to an author who deserves more scholarly attention and to a literary practice—the mixing of historiography and poetry—that has played an important role from the time of Herodotus until today.

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 6:26pm by Adam Blistein.

Charles Luther Babcock died December 7, 2012 at the age of 88. He was born in Whittier California, May 26, 1924. After attending Whittier Union High School, he enrolled in the University of California—Berkeley in 1941, where he became a member of ROTC. In 1943 he entered the US Army and served in General Patton’s Third Army in the invasion of Germany in 1945. There, as Second Lieutenant, he earned the Bronze Medal for leading his platoon through heavy fire at Neumarkt, assisting the wounded, personally liberating nine POWs and capturing the local civilian leader of the resistance. After the war as Captain he became aide-de-camp to Maj. Gen. John Coulter, who went on to become Deputy Commander of the Fourth Army.

In 1947 Capt. Babcock resumed his studies at Berkeley, where he earned a BA (Phi Beta Kappa) in Latin in 1948 and a PhD in Classics in 1953, with a dissertation on The Dating of the Capitoline Fasti and the Erasure of the Antonii Names, written under Arthur E. Gordon. So began Charles Babcock’s lifelong interest in Latin Epigraphy and the history of the Roman Empire. He continued his pursuit of Roman history and epigraphy at the American Academy in Rome as a Fulbright Scholar and Academy Fellow (1953-55). While sailing to Rome with other Americans heading for the Academy, he met Mary A. Taylor, a graduate student from Bryn Mawr. They were married in 1955 and raised three children.

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Tue, 02/19/2013 - 8:28pm by .

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