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 new Classics Everywhere initiative, recently launched by the SCS, supports projects that seek to introduce and engage communities all over the US with the worlds of Greek and Roman antiquity in new and meaningful ways. During the first round of applications, the SCS funded 13 projects, ranging from performances and a cinema series to educational programs and inter-institutional collaborations. In this post we focus on four programs that engaged audiences with the study of Greek and Roman antiquity and its connection to our modern world through the visual and performing arts.

The mythical past was a great source of inspiration not only for the Athenian 5th century playwrights, but also for many artists in the performing and visual arts ever since. The Greeks performed and dramatized stories from a mythologized history to explore emerging tensions between family and community values, gender dynamics, human relationships, the definition of justice, and the role of the divine world in human life. Putting these stories on the theatrical stage during their city’s most important festivals served to encourage audiences to think about the organization and structure of their society, their policies, and values.

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 05/23/2019 - 8:04pm by Nina Papathanasopoulou.

Topic:  Hindsight in 2020

The saying “hindsight is 20/20” refers to the notion that it is easier to evaluate choices and understand events and their consequences after they have already occurred. Your task is to imagine how a historical, literary, or mythological figure from antiquity might have acted differently if they knew then what we know now. You may choose to focus on a single event and its repercussions or examine a pattern of behavior or a general character trait in light of current knowledge.

Contest Parameters and Judging

This contest is open to any student enrolled full-time in high school anywhere in the world during the current school year. An award of $250 will be given to the author of the best entry, which may take the form of a short story, essay, play, poem, or original literary work of any other sort.

Entries will be judged on accuracy to ancient sources, appropriate use of those sources, originality, quality of material, thematic development, correctness of English style, and effectiveness of presentation.

Contest Guidelines

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Fri, 05/17/2019 - 10:19am by Erik Shell.

At a 2010 forum at the New York Public Library featuring Harvard professor Cornel West and Jay-Z (Shawn Carter), Prof. West recalled one of his seminars at Princeton, which had featured a panel of Jay-Z, Toni Morrison, and Phylicia Rashad. West recalled discussing how Plato “made the world safe for Socrates, so the people would remember the name of Socrates forever,” and Jay-Z replied, “Well I have been playing Plato to Biggie’s Socrates.” As it turns out, there is a great deal of classical allusion to unpack in the world of hip-hop, many embedded within the lyrics of Jay-Z.


Figure 1: Jacques-Louis David, The Death of Socrates (1787).
(Image via Wikimedia Commons).

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 05/16/2019 - 4:42pm by Samuel Ortencio Flores.

"Motion and Migrancy in the Formation of Roman Literature"

Joy Connolly, Interim President and Distinguished Professor of Classics, Graduate Center CUNY

8th Floor Faculty/Staff Dining Room, Hunter West Building
SW Lexington Ave & 68th St.
 
Friday, May 17th, 2019
  • 4:30 - 5:00 Pre-Lecture Reception
  • 5:00 - 5:30 Student Award Ceremony
  • 5:30 - 6:30 Lecture
  • 6:30 - 7:00 Post-Lecture Reception

This lecture is free and open to the public.

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(Photo: "Empty Boardroom" by Reynermedia, licensed under CC BY 2.0)

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Tue, 05/14/2019 - 2:09pm by Erik Shell.
Server

The Digital Latin Library has published a blog post detailing new its new website, upcoming text releases, and other new features.

You can read the blog post here: https://digitallatin.org/blog/updates-ldlt

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(Photo: “Switch!" by Andrew Hart, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Mon, 05/13/2019 - 9:15am by Erik Shell.

This month, we spotlight the graduate research of Dr. Vivian A. Laughlin, who recently defended her dissertation on the Roman imperial appropriation of Serapis this spring.

While excavating at Hadrian’s Villa in 2015 with Columbia University I noticed that there were various architectural designs and material culture that appeared to be influenced by Egyptian culture. Then when roaming through various parts of the city of Rome, I began to see similar aesthetic references to Egyptian iconography in many places from Augustus’ House on the Palatine to Roman imperial works within various museums throughout the city. I questioned the Egyptian iconography I saw and why the visual references were being made. The more I questioned it, the more it created a burgeoning reason to investigate further and to better understand the relationship between Rome and Egypt. It was almost as if the material culture was speaking to my soul.

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 05/10/2019 - 6:40am by Vivian A. Laughlin.

The SCS is proud to announce that it is now hosting the newest version of Joy Connolly's "Going on the Market...and What Comes Before," a detailed and practical guide to preparation for the academic job market.

The text is hosted on the SCS website here, and can be found on the Placement Service toolbar.

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(Photo: "_DSC7061" by rhodesj, licensed under CC BY 2.0)

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Thu, 05/09/2019 - 9:13am by Erik Shell.

CfP: The spatial turn in Roman studies

Auckland, January 22-24 2020
Durham, June 10-12 2020

Organised by Amy Russell and Maxine Lewis

We write to announce two international conferences plus a year-long programme of events in Durham on the theme ‘The spatial turn in Roman studies’. This is the call for papers for the Auckland conference, 22-24 January 2020. A call for papers for the Durham conference will follow.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 05/09/2019 - 9:03am by Erik Shell.

By Urmila Mohan and Courtney O’Dell-Chaib

Scholars of religion have developed a framework for exploration of interactions between religion and tangible objects called "material religion." Over the past two decades, the focus within the study of material religion has emphasised object agency, aesthetics and networks. Disseminated in part by the journal Material Religion, a materialised study of religion explores religiosity as inseparable from a matrix of components including people, divine forces, institutions, things, places and communities. However, what still remains to be unpacked is a focus on the way material religion takes place globally. That is not merely editing case studies from different parts of the world based on theory generated in the West, but trying to see how vectors of bodies, affect, objects and ecologies might generate new theoretical approaches and data based on close cultural or ethnographic analyses.

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 05/02/2019 - 4:47pm by .

(From the University of Mississippi's website)

Former University of Mississippi professor Lucy Turnbull will always be remembered as a beloved educator who could make her curriculum both easy to understand and infinitely interesting to her students, a mentor and a champion of civil rights at Ole Miss.

Her enthusiasm for the classics was contagious, which propelled her students to success in her art history, archaeology, mythology and classical civilization courses. Turnbull, 87, of Oxford, joined the university faculty in 1961 and taught until 1990. She died Sunday (April 21).

Dewey Knight, recently retired UM associate director of the Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience, was one of Turnbull’s friends. He entered the university as a freshman in 1966 and found himself in one of her classes that year.

“She walked into the classroom that first day,” Knight said. “There were about 25 of us, and we were immediately very afraid of Professor Turnbull. She was incredibly intelligent. She could read Greek like we read English.

“We all were in fear of her, but we had the ultimate respect for her, because it was very obvious she was brilliant.”

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Thu, 05/02/2019 - 8:39am by Erik Shell.

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