2021 SCS Award for Excellence in Teaching Classics at the K-12 Level: Award Citations

Congratulations again to our 2021 winners! You can read the full award citations for each prize winner by clicking on the names below:

Jessie Craft

Mathew Olkovikas

Margaret Somerville


Jessie Craft, Regan High School, Pfafftown, NC

Jessie Craft knows how to reach students who are not easy to reach. His first five years of teaching were spent in a school that had been borderline Title 1 for many years, with students who were not the usual demographic to sign up for Latin. Magister Craft started reaching out to them with “Quotes of the Day,” uplifting thoughts from ancient authors that students would reflect on and apply to their daily lives. As they began to engage, he studied secondary language acquisition and started to introduce more oral instruction into his curriculum – as he puts it, teaching Latin by “speaking to humans in a human way”. Drawing on Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS), he would imagine himself as “some Homeric bard who goes about telling his students riveting stories about mythology, Roman history, and culture.” As he told his tales, he would draw, gesticulate, intonate, shout, whisper, and slay enemies with Expo swords. He found that active Latin created equity in the class, making it an inclusive environment suitable for anyone, regardless of background. Students who would normally struggle in traditional grammar and translation-based classes were now flourishing. Where before 30% of students were failing, now most had A’s and B’s.

As Magister Craft rethought the way he presented material, he began using the Minecraft platform to teach Roman architecture and city planning by constructing digital structures and public spaces online. As he notes, he saw Minecraft “as a bridge between the cultures of ancient Rome and that of the students”. He recorded audio-visual guided tours through these spaces, describing their features in simple Latin with English subtitles. The results were “wonderful and humbling”. His students loved the videos and understood the Latin in real time. Through Minecraft, Magister Craft brought digital convenience and immersive learning into his classroom, improving retention, recollection, and comprehension.

A radical innovator and brilliant teacher, Magister Craft has shared his materials, influencing colleagues across the country. His YouTube channel Divus Magister Craft now has nearly 11,000 subscribers, and his advanced Latin-language podcast, Legio XIII, has several hundred. As one of his nominators notes, “it is not an exaggeration to say that Jessie is one of the world's leading digital pedagogues of Latin language and Roman civilization”. Magister Craft richly fulfills his goal of making the Classics and Latin relevant and accessible to students of all walks of life.

We are honored to recognize Jessie Craft for his outstanding teaching with the SCS’s 2021 Award for Excellence in Teaching of the Classics at the K-12 Level.

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Matthew Olkovikas, Pinkerton Academy in Derry, NH

Matthew Olkovikas has created a sense of community around Latin at Pinkerton, starting with the meaningful connections he forges with his students. His alumni remark on his unwavering compassion and his ability to really listen to students. One mentions the amusing nicknames Magister Olkovikas uses to create a welcoming atmosphere at the beginning of the semester: “within a week I had received [my nickname] and my anxieties were quelled. It was in this classroom that my strongest friendships were fostered.” Magister Olkovikas is always building community, whether he is leading trips to Italy every other February, or to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, or organizing bi-annual dinners at local restaurants that serve Greek and Italian foods. His students take ancient Greek after school and write for the program’s annual Stylus and Strigil magazine. The Pinkerton Academy Classical Society is among the most active clubs on campus. “This can all feel”, he notes, “like the proverbial throwing of spaghetti against the wall, trying to offer as many opportunities in a small program as an entire Spanish department might, but I feel that providing an abundance of opportunity often results in students’ taking us up in surprising ways”. These rich opportunities are the reason his classroom is never empty after school, as students flock there simply to spend time with him and chat.

Magister Olkovikas deeply believes that Latin is for everyone. He welcomes students by identifying their individual talents and interests and nudging them towards meaningful activities. As he notes, “The presence of astronomy buffs has yielded class and club events on Greco-Roman cosmology; a recent wealth of excellent choir students has resulted in an early music event. A student’s computer skills led to a grammatical game app. If there are botany fans, we’ll grow an olive tree in the room. Is Greek alluring? Fetch the Athenaze.” He believes in taking things seriously but making it fun, whether through his famous “Matisms” (e.g., describing a depiction of Zeus as “the pinnacle of Zeusitude”), or wacky review games like “Slapite Mihi” (Slap Me, the io game). As an alumnus writes, “he has the remarkable gift of being understated and unassuming and also funny and clear all simultaneously”. And his students achieve impressive results: in the past year, 47 of the program’s 120 students received cum laude or superior recognition on the National Latin Exam, National Classical Etymology Exam, the National Mythology Exam, and the National Roman Civilization Exam, with several taking bronze, silver, and gold.

We are honored to recognize Matthew Olkovikas for his outstanding teaching with the SCS’s 2021 Award for Excellence in Teaching of the Classics at the K-12 Level.

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Margaret Somerville, Friends’ Central School, Wynnewood, PA (grades 6-8)

Margaret Somerville takes a holistic approach to teaching, viewing language learning as a vehicle for students to know themselves better. “In homage to Socrates,” she explains, “I try to lead out what is already there within each student. I believe that the experience of learning Latin is about making meaning of who we are.” Helping each student feel their own worth means going beyond language structures, beyond learning to translate the Aeneid, and finding something personal. Students might create a line of African American Olympians to accompany a story in Latin, or make digital charts of “every single possible noun and verb inflection known to humanity,” or fall into hushed silence while the muse Calliope is invoked with the words Musa, mihi fabulam memora, and “Magistra” begins another installment of an epic tale, for Tempus Fabulae, a much-loved element of her classes. Students enjoy the nicknames by which they’re known (such as “Atlas” or “Penelope”) and the hands-on activities that create an engaging environment, such as “Derivative Faire,” where they receive a Latin root and are challenged to find as many related words as possible from other languages. Her students feel special and at home with her. As one alumnus writes, “She imparted in all us not just a love of Latin, but by extension a love of learning––a gift I will always be grateful for”.

Ms. Somerville is well known to Latin educators for her pioneering curriculum Prima Lingua: A Preparatory Course for the Study of Foreign Languages, a course for middle school students that provides a foundation in how all languages work, primarily the basics of grammar, syntax, and derivatives. Early in her career, she found that before she could begin teaching her students a second language, she had to give them a better grasp of how languages work. Only then were they ready to begin understanding what sets most world languages apart from English—such factors as gender, adjective-noun agreement, and word order. Prima Lingua builds on the longstanding role of Latin as a vehicle for teaching formal grammar, but instead of treating those forms of knowledge as implicit byproducts of learning to read Latin, it foregrounds them and makes them the subject of explicit study. Students really understand what it means that languages differ from each other and gain a more meaningful basis for deciding which language they want to learn. Encouraged by early results, Ms. Somerville turned her own classroom course into a workbook and teacher’s manual, complete with lesson plans, worksheets, and age appropriate activities (such as role playing animal communication for the segment on “Animal Languages”). Ms. Somerville has presented on the Prima Lingua curriculum at many conferences, ranging from ACTFL and ACL to NECC and ISTE and it is now taught across the country, and it has been used in grade levels from fourth grade through ninth grade.

We are honored to recognize Margaret Somerville for her outstanding teaching with the SCS’s 2021 Award for Excellence in Teaching of the Classics at the K-12 Level.

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A brightly colored manuscript page. On the left is calligraphy in Sanskrit; on the right is a woman in printed garb sitting in a carriage pulled by two white horses. She makes a gesture with her two palms press together. A black figure looks back at her.

Like many educators, I have found myself in an endless loop lately of thinking and rethinking my teaching principles and practices — a loop caused by the unprecedented teaching conditions the pandemic has brought upon us. Though I consider myself a thoughtful instructor, I admit that I have never thought so extensively, carefully, and critically about the purposes and desired outcomes of my teaching as I have in the months between March 2020 and now. Each week of each semester involves calibrating and recalibrating my courses, as I hope to meet the needs of my students and help them balance their lives within the classroom and without. I have become more attuned to the extramural realities that bear on my students’ learning, and as someone who works at a Hispanic-serving Institution, a desire for inclusivity increasingly informs the way I teach. My own institution just recently offered its first workshop on culturally responsive pedagogy, which provided me with many new tools for teaching in inclusive ways. Among other things, I realized that any kind of responsive pedagogy involves constant conversation with one’s colleagues, to generate, refresh, and fine-tune ways of teaching with a view toward inclusion and accessibility.

View full article. | Posted in on Sun, 01/09/2022 - 9:37pm by .
A Macbook sits on a wooden desk showing a Zoom screen filled with faces. Left of it, a turquoise mug sits on the desk.

To write about the Capitol Insurrection, as the one-year anniversary approached, I went back through my chat logs from January 6, 2021, in the interest of refreshing and confirming my memory. What I found, in lieu of any particularly meaningful conclusions, was a window into that day and how some friends and I were dealing with catastrophic events as they unfolded.

That day, I had a university meeting wedged between SCS panels, and I think I actually found the precise moment when I realized what was going on. That moment is a fairly profanity-laden series of messages with a very-online friend of mine, to whom I sent “So what the fuck is happening in DC?? I've been in meetings and the capitol building is being stormed??” followed by “i allegedly have another meeting right now and i am physically nauseous after having like a 5 minute break and seeing the news.”

In all my other group chats, things progressed about the same. Conversation about the SCS conference and pre-semester preparation, interrupted by a confused panic about what was happening on the news. A bunch of millennial classicists trying frantically to figure out where they can watch live news and wondering why all the afternoon panels weren’t canceled (though some were), processing anger and fear in countless group-chats and DMs.

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 01/07/2022 - 12:48pm by .
A painting of Rome featuring a crowd of men fighting on a hill. Behind them is an obelisk, a column, and a toppled white marble statue of a nude man.

At 2:00 pm on January 6th, 2021, a mob made its way up the steps of the U.S. Capitol following a morning of brinkmanship, speeches, and speculation. I sat in my office at home, logged into a Zoom session, watching Twitter and a streaming news channel on one screen, all while pretending to be engaged with the beginning of an SCS Panel, “The Powers and Perils of Solitude in Greek Literature.”

At 2:20 or so, I was slated to begin a talk entitled “Being Human, Being Alone” as the Capitol was evacuated and our legislators were put under protection. At 2:24 pm, President Trump tweeted, “Mike Pence didn't have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 01/06/2022 - 10:00am by .
A monochromatic stone statue of a man with short hair wrapped in a toga and sitting in a large chair. His right arm is leaning on the back of the chair, and his left hand holds a writing tablet on his lap. The base of the statue reads "SALLVSTIVS"

What do you read for an insurrection? Classics offers plenty of material for revolutionary bibliophiles: compilations for the budding revolutionary, handbooks for coups both successful and failed. The Capitol rioters certainly had their Classics before their eyes, as Curtis Dozier outlined shortly after the event: Caesar and XenophonVergil and Herodotus.

But in January 2021, I was reading Sallust—and an apt choice it was, too. Not because of what Sallust writes — Catiline’s attempt to overthrow the government or Marius’ attempt to change Roman institutions — but because of what he passes over. He was there at the swelling of the atmosphere that led to the burning of the Senate house on January 19th (what is it about Januaries?), 52 bce, during the funeral of Publius Clodius.

View full article. | Posted in on Wed, 01/05/2022 - 11:20am by .
New WCC logo reading WCC 50th, 1972-2022. Beige font on a dusty pink background.

The year was 1971. In the lobby of a hotel in Cincinnati, OH, a small group of early career faculty and graduate students, mostly women, met and decided to form a caucus. Frustrated by the lack of transparency, mentors, and opportunities in Classics both for women in the field and for those who studied women in antiquity, they wanted something different, both for themselves and for future generations. At the next year’s Annual Meeting of the American Philological Association (APA) in Philadelphia, PA, they made it official. The Women’s Classical Caucus (WCC) was born.

By phone, mail, and intermittent gatherings at regional conferences and the APA (now SCS), the founders and early members of this young caucus stayed connected and encouraged each other in its early decades to publish feminist scholarship and introduce to their departments new, revolutionary courses on “women in antiquity,” which received almost immediate backlash.

Fast forward 50 years, and it’s hard to imagine a time when women and feminist scholars were not a strong presence in the profession, whether publishing scholarship through the lens of feminist theory, teaching about ancient women at both the K-12 and university levels, or taking on leadership roles both in the SCS and in their local institutions.

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 01/03/2022 - 10:14am by .

Every year at the annual meeting we hold the Career Networking event, a meeting that gives academics access to former classicists, historians, and archeologists who have made career shifts into new fields. They speak candidly about their transition, and are there to offer advice to anyone looking to change career paths. This year we have more networkers than in any year previous, with a broad range of fields and experiences represented.

We will hold our annual Career Networking event at this year's virtual AIA/SCS Annual Meeting on Saturday, January 8th, from 1:30 - 3:00 p.m. Pacific Time.

Please block off time to attend this extraordinarily helpful event. It'll be accessible through the digital meeting platform.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Mon, 01/03/2022 - 9:01am by Erik Shell.

The AIA and SCS have made the difficult decision to switch our upcoming 2022 Annual Meeting to a virtual only event.  We had high hopes to once again have an in-person component to our meeting, but the rapid rise in Covid cases due to the Delta and Omicron variants have made that impossible to do safely.  While we are eager to see everyone in-person again, the overall health and safety of our attendees, staff, and hotel and meeting personnel take precedence. 

Since we were already planning to hold our meeting in a hybrid format the transition to a virtual only meeting will not be difficult.  We are using the same platform as last year and all sessions will be available through the virtual meeting platform.  Details on how to access it will be emailed out to all attendees next Monday (January 3).

If you had been planning to attend in person, please contact the Hilton to cancel your reservation.  We will be reaching out to all in-person registrants following the meeting regarding refunds for the difference in registration rates. 

We hope everyone is staying safe and healthy and look forward to seeing you online during our virtual meeting. 

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Wed, 12/29/2021 - 2:17pm by Helen Cullyer.

SCS is pleased to announce the following winners of the 2021 excellence in teaching awards. Please join us in congratulating the winners!

Excellence in Teaching at the K-12 Level

Jessie Craft (Reagan High School, WSFCS school district)

Mathew Olkovikas (Pinkerton Academy)

Margaret Somerville (Friends' Central School)

Excellence in Teaching at the College and University Level

Deborah Beck (University of Texas at Austin)

Richard Ellis (University of California, Los Angeles)

Wilfred Major (Louisiana State University)

Brett Rogers (University of Puget Sound)

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Mon, 12/27/2021 - 9:09am by Helen Cullyer.
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It is a truth universally acknowledged that humor ages poorly. Jokes tend to be topical, and to be based on the social expectations of a particular group at a particular moment. The deterioration of humor over time is often a matter of changing contexts as well as changing tastes: ideas that once made a coherent joke cease to fit together.

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 12/27/2021 - 8:34am by .

Call for Papers

Exemplary Representation(s) of the Past:

New Readings of Valerius Maximus’ Facta et dicta memorabilia

The last thirty years have seen an increase in interest in Valerius Maximus and his Facta et dicta memorabilia. Willing to consider Valerius’ collection of historical exempla as a piece of literature in its own right, scholars have started to scrutinise its moral, social, and intellectual significance at the time of the early Roman Empire and beyond.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 12/23/2021 - 9:24am by Erik Shell.

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