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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A man in a light blue toga hugs a woman with black hair, seen only from the back, who buries her head in his shoulder and raises her left hand in lament.

I have always enjoyed Latin class because it felt like a puzzle, much like math. Find the verb, find the noun that matches with the right case, number, and gender, then piece it all together. I had never connected with the language beyond its algebraic nature until my teacher gave me the opportunity to take ownership over the material — with a self-directed research assignment to be presented at a colloquium. Completing this project during a period of remote learning, I felt inspired by the ability to have greater independence and take control of my own learning. On top of all that, we would be presenting our work to the entire school and the wider community at the end of the year.

But first, I needed to choose what I wanted to study.

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 03/21/2022 - 10:31am by .
A hand-drawn map on yellowed parchment with drawings of buildings and an aqueduct. In the center, a togaed man sits on a throne with a spear in his right hand and a halo behind him, indicating his sainthood. Red text behind his head reads ANTIOCHIA.

Research ideas often develop out of chance encounters or unplanned circumstances. My dissertation project was born just like that: when the intersection between an author that I was falling in love with and a pressing question that emerged from a completely unrelated event started bugging my young researcher’s mind.

I completed my M.A. by producing a translation, with commentary, of the letters of Libanius of Antioch to Datianus. A Greek sophist under the Roman empire, Libanius held the chair of rhetoric in Antioch for the greater part of the second half of the 4th century CE. His immense production, often mined for its wealth of historical information, has been the object of a resurgence of interest in the past few decades. I started working on his epistolary corpus only a few years after the publication of a precious volume that collected the state of the art in Libanian scholarship. A teacher myself and forced to maintain long-distance relationships with friends and family in my home country, I felt in familiar territory making the acquaintance of this ancient teacher, who gracefully preserved copies of some 1500 letters he sent to friends, students’ parents, bureaucrats, politicians, governors, and emperors of his time. 

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 03/18/2022 - 10:24am by .

Seneca 2022 --- SPECIAL/FINAL CALL FOR PAPERS 

Deadline for proposals: March 30, 2022

The Centre for Classical Studies of the School of Arts and Humanities of the University of Lisbon is organizing an International Conference on Seneca to promote and encourage a critical reflection on the permanence of themes, values, perspectives and representations of Seneca’s works in Western literature and culture. 

The Conference will take place between 17-20 October 2022, and, through the interdisciplinary debate of the contribution given by the experiences of researchers from different fields of study, it aims to:

- determine how Seneca became one of the most prominent figures in Western culture;

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 03/17/2022 - 10:14am by .

(From the Classics Department at Emory University)

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Wed, 03/16/2022 - 3:10pm by .
Women Latinists, Summer Course

Join us for two weeks in Florence on this unique learning experience that brings language to life in the real spaces where women wrote Latin. Includes 6 hours daily content, site visits, immersive learning, text-based activities and optional cultural programming every evening.*

When: July 17 - 31, 2022. 

Where: Florence, Italy.

View full article. | Posted in Summer Programs on Wed, 03/16/2022 - 2:59pm by .

The Classical Association of the Atlantic States (CAAS) has extended its Call for Proposals for the 2022 Fall Annual Meeting submission deadline to Monday, March 28, 2022.

You can read more about the Annual Meeting here: https://caas-cw.org/2021/12/17/call-for-papers-caas-2022-fall-annual-meeting/ .

The full CFP can be downloaded here: CAAS 2022 CFP.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Tue, 03/15/2022 - 4:36pm by .
A shirtless black man with tattoos and a red bandana sits on a box of records facing right. He looks at a black boy in a red and white striped shirt. Both of their shadows are visible on the wall behind them.

Because it’s spirits, we ain’t even really rappin’
We just letting our dead homies tell stories for us.

Tupac Shakur, saying these words to journalist Mats Nileskär in 1994, articulated the centrality of community and collective history to hip hop and offered his response to the vexed question of the wellspring of poetic inspiration. Nearly two decades after Tupac’s murder, Pulitzer Prize-winning rapper Kendrick Lamar gave new life to those words in his track “Mortal Man,” recasting Nileskär’s interview and intersplicing Tupac’s voice with his own, so that it is Lamar who seems to be in dialogue with Tupac. The result is an impossible conversation between the living and the dead: impossible because Tupac died when Lamar was just nine years old. But in highlighting and embodying Tupac’s perception that rap gives voice to the stories of one’s dead comrades, Lamar’s “sampling” of the conversation centers Tupac’s vision and acknowledges the debt Lamar owes to his predecessors, cementing the connection between them.

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 03/14/2022 - 10:37am by .
Four women in white tunics sit and lie in a landscape of ferns. Some play instruments.

If you attended the 2022 Annual Meeting earlier this year — and if you woke up bright and early on Saturday morning! — you may have been lucky enough to tune in to the very first panel sponsored by the Ancient Worlds, Modern Communities Initiative (AnWoMoCo). Recent recipients of a microgrant from this program gathered from all over America, Canada, and even Ghana to present seven exciting public-facing projects that aim to bring Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies out of the ivory tower. The goal is to reach audiences, organizations, and people who might otherwise never have the opportunity to engage with the history, literature, language, archaeology, culture, texts, and individuals of the ancient Mediterranean world.

Ten presenters shared their projects, which ranged from primary school curricula, prison programming, visual and performing arts, and digital initiatives. I was beyond inspired by all of the incredible people who presented that day, so I jumped at the chance to summarize their contributions here for those who missed it.

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 03/11/2022 - 10:09am by .
Title: Papyrus in Greek regarding tax issues (3rd ca. BC.)  Currently in the Metropolitan Mueum of Art. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/251788 Source: Wikipedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Papyrus_in_Greek_regarding_tax

(publishing on behalf of Thea Sommerschield, a Marie Curie fellow at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and Fellow at Harvard’s CHS)

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Thu, 03/10/2022 - 11:48am by .

Res Difficiles: A Conference on Challenges and Pathways for Addressing Inequity in Classics 

When: May 20, 2022 , 9:00am - 4:00pm 

Where: Live-streamed via Zoom [Registration now open]

Classical Studies at Boston University and Classics, BU Center for the Humanities, Philosophy, & Religious Studies at the University of Mary Washington present Res Difficiles: A Conference On Challenges and Pathways for Addressing Inequity In Classics. [Res Difficiles 3: Difficult Conversations in Classics].

Dr. Kelly Nguyen (Stanford University) will deliver the keynote address.

The event will be live-streamed via Zoom, and will be live-captioned. Participants/viewers may live-tweet the event on the hashtag #ResDiff3.

You can find more information about the speakers and sessions here: https://resdifficiles.com/

You can register here

Any questions can be directed to the co-organizers: Hannah Čulík-Baird and Joseph Romero.

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Tue, 03/08/2022 - 12:35pm by .

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