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 response to the campaign to save Classics at Royal Holloway, and to the proposals put forward by the Department, the College has made some revisions to its proposals for the future of Classics. In particular the BA Classics is to be retained and the importance of advanced teaching in classical languages has been explicitly recognised. A reduction in staff numbers is still proposed, but it would be a loss of 4 posts rather than 6. We would be allowed to admit a total of 50 undergraduates per year for our classical degree programmes. The merger with History is still proposed but the suggestion now is that there would be a 'School of History and Classics' with a 'subject leader' for Classics. The proposal to move the Philosophy staff, including the Ancient Philosophy post, to the Department of Politics and International Relations has not been changed, nor has the proposal to move our Research Professor entirely to the Department of English.

Discussions within the College continue, and we hope for further progress. We are very pleased that we can continue to welcome applications through UCAS for 2012 for ALL our current degree programmes.

Prof. Anne Sheppard
Head of Classics and Philosophy Department
Royal Holloway
University of London
Egham, Surrey TW20 0EX

tel: +44 (0)1784 443204

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Mon, 10/03/2011 - 2:33pm by Information Architect.

"When Ted Pappas returned to Greece last summer he took 'Electra' with him. 'I studied it in Greek under an olive tree on my property,' says Pappas, who is directing the Pittsburgh Public Theater production of 'Electra' that begins performances Thursday at the O'Reilly Theater, Downtown." Read more at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review online.

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Sun, 10/02/2011 - 2:14pm by Information Architect.

Helen Hansen, a Plan II and public relations freshman at the University of Texas-Austin, wrote an impassioned defense of the Classics Department in her column in The Daily Texan this week.

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Sun, 10/02/2011 - 2:06pm by Information Architect.

The deadline has been extended to nominate primary and secondary school Classics teachers for the Awards for Excellence in Teaching at the Precollegiate Level that we present jointly with the American Classical League.  October 11, 2011 is the new deadline for receipt of nomination materials in the APA Office.  Thanks to a gift to the APA's Campaign for Classics by Daniel and Joanna Rose, these awards carry a larger honorarium and include a stipend for the awardee's school to use for the purchase of educational materials.  Full details are available on the APA web site.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Mon, 09/26/2011 - 5:34pm by Adam Blistein.

A new programme to revive Latin and Greek in our schools

Peter Jones writes in Spectator.co.uk:

Some 15 years ago, at the behest of the then editor Charles Moore, I wrote a jovial 20-week QED: Learn Latin column for the Daily Telegraph. It attracted a huge following, and I still have four large box-files full of letters from users. The majority of them expressed one of three sentiments: ‘I learned Latin at school x years ago, loved it and am delighted to renew my acquaintance’; ‘I learned Latin at school, hated it, but now realise what I have missed’; and ‘I never learned Latin at school and have always regretted it’.

These responses have stayed with me ever since, but they prompt a question: anecdotal evidence about the value people place on Latin is all very well, but would it be possible to produce something a little more objective? Can we demonstrate unconditionally that, as Gilbert Murray argued to the Classical Association in 1954, our pearls are real?

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Sun, 09/25/2011 - 7:45pm by Information Architect.

From The Daily Texan's letters to the editor:

“Greek studies” is not about to be eliminated either as a field of study or as a major here, as the story titled “Greek studies to be eliminated from UT majors,” which ran in The Daily Texan on Thursday, suggests. The classics department continues to offer a wide range of courses on the languages and cultures of ancient Greece and Rome (classical studies), and UT students will continue to have multiple options for pursuing degrees that include advanced work in the language and culture of ancient Greece.

Yes, the Higher Education Coordinating Board has directed UT to eliminate one of our majors: the bachelor’s in Greek. But students still have four other degree options that require advanced work in ancient Greek language and culture: classics, classical archaeology, ancient history and classical civilization and Latin. The classics major requires advanced work in both Greek and Latin language. The classical archaeology and ancient history majors require advanced work in classical culture and also in either Greek or Latin. Even the bachelor’s in Latin requires advanced work in either Greek or classical culture.

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Sat, 09/24/2011 - 7:56pm by Information Architect.

"UT is the only public university in Texas to offer an undergraduate degree in Greek studies, but students entering the University after the current academic year will no longer be able to declare a major in the program. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board directed UT to eliminate its degree in Greek studies following this academic year. The board has suggested colleges cut certain degree programs with low enrollment in order to ease state-wide budget cuts to education." Read more at The Daily Texan …

For clarification, see Professor Stephen White's letter to the editor of The Daily Texan.

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Sat, 09/24/2011 - 12:43pm by Information Architect.

In support of the Gateway Campaign for Classics in the 21st Century the APA and Boston University will host a benefit on October 6th featuring classically themed readings by four poets.

Boston, Home of the Muses: Classical Translations and Inspirations by Four Eminent Poetswill be held on Thursday, October 6, 2011 at 8 p.m. at the Metcalf Trustee Center at Boston University. The evening will feature readings and a reception with

David Ferry, poet, translator, and recent winner of the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for lifetime achievement.

George Kalogeris, poet and teacher of English Literature and Classics in Translation at Suffolk University.

Robert Pinsky, former United States Poet Laureate and Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. 

Rosanna Warren, poet and Emma MacLachlan Metcalf Professor of the Humanities at Boston University.

A pre-performance dinner with the poets for top-tier ticket purchasers will be held at the former President’s residence, known as The Castle, one of Boston University’s most elegant buildings.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Fri, 09/23/2011 - 2:50pm by Adam Blistein.

The Packard Humanities Institute has made its database of Classical Latin texts available online at http://latin.packhum.org/index. Click on "Word Search," then click on the symbol next to the "search" button for directions.

View full article. | Posted in Websites and Resources on Wed, 09/21/2011 - 12:50am by .

"Before he became a Professor of literature at Harvard, and way before he wrote his classic Shakespeare biography, Will in The World, Stephen Greenblatt was an I'll-read-anything kind of kid. One day, he was standing in the campus book store, and there, in a bin, selling for ten cents (good price, even in 1961) he noticed a thin, little volume called On the Nature of Things, by a Roman writer named Lucretius. When he opened it, he found a description of how the universe came to be. Because Lucretius lived a couple of generations before the birth of Jesus, Stephen was expecting a tale of how gods, goddesses, earth, air, fire and water and an assortment of miracles created everything we see, but as he turned the pages, he says 'his jaw dropped' and 'his head began to burst open,' because Lucretius' creation story doesn't feel remotely ancient. First of all, it's a radically secular account, ignoring gods, goddesses, heaven, hell, life after death, and intelligent design, but more surprising, its logic is eerily, almost spookily modern." Read more, or listen to the interview at NPR.org.

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Mon, 09/19/2011 - 5:20pm by Information Architect.

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