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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Since issues pertaining to social media continue to arise, the Society for Classical Studies wishes as a supplement to its earlier statement to caution its members and the members of its various affiliated organizations that they should take great care before making allegations on matters of fact about members of the scholarly community or repeating such assertions in their own media posts. Strong criticism is protected by academic freedom, but falsehood is not. Repeating false information or false rumors, or encouraging false inferences about another person, or about scientific or other factual matters, could hurt the public image and long-term health of our Society and our discipline, and could cause harm—both reputational harm and legal liability—to the original poster and to others. The SCS Statement of Professional Ethics prohibits harassment and intimidation, which can take place on social media, and the Committee on Professional Ethics may review complaints about such harassment.

View full article. | Posted in Public Statements on Tue, 12/21/2021 - 9:13am by Helen Cullyer.
A white woman wearing rectangular glasses, a black mask, and a purple t-shirt holds a white flag. Behind her, a person in a black jacket with a fur-trimmed hood holds a sign. They are outdoors on the sidewalk, and the sky is cloudy.

Our sixth interview in the Contingent Faculty Series is a virtual conversation between Dr. Joshua Nudell and Dr. Aven McMaster.

Joshua Nudell: There is no easy way into this conversation, but, until recently, you were tenured at a university that went through bankruptcy and now you are a contingent faculty member. Without dwelling on the events at Laurentian, how has this transition informed your view of contingency in particular and academia in general?

Aven McMaster: Don’t worry, I’m used to talking about all this! In fact, it’s a reminder of how entwined we tend to be with our jobs.

Before all this happened, I’d already been grappling with the problems of contingency, since my partner has been a sessional lecturer (Canadian term for “adjunct”) for years now. But obviously it has made this issue even more personal. Losing the only job I’ve trained for, after 15 years of full-time employment, certainly has made me doubt a lot of what I thought was stable or certain in this world.

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 12/20/2021 - 9:21am by .

The American School of Classical Studies at Athens is pleased to announce its summer seminars for 2022:

Thanatopsis: Greek Funerary Customs Through the Ages (June 6-24, 2022), led by Professor Daniel B. Levine

and

The Northern Aegean: Macedon and Thrace (June 30 - July 18, 2022), led by Professors Amalia Avramidou and Denise Demetriou

For more details see https://www.ascsa.edu.gr/programs/summerseminars

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Mon, 12/20/2021 - 8:37am by Helen Cullyer.
Roman Forum

Travel and see ancient sites in the Mediterranean and Europe in 2022!

The Vergilian Society is offering exciting tours of ancient sites in Sicily, Naples, Malta, Portugal and Romania.   

The Vergilian Society is also offering stimulating Latin workshops for teachers that include opportunities to visit a variety of ancient sites to reinforce their teachings of the ancient world. 

For a description and details of the tours and workshops, visit https://www.vergiliansociety.org/2020-vergilian-society-study-tours-and-workshops/

Over $100,000 in scholarship money available: https://www.vergiliansociety.org/tours/scholarships/

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Mon, 12/20/2021 - 8:28am by Helen Cullyer.

Basler Homer-Kommentar [zur Ilias] (BK) /  Homer’s Iliad. The Basel Commentary (BKE)

Project promoter: Swiss National Science Foundation in support of scientific research (SNSF), Berne.

Place of work: University of Basel, Department of Ancient Civilizations, professorial chair for Greek Philology, Petersgraben 51, CH-4051 Basel.

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Thu, 12/16/2021 - 10:36am by Helen Cullyer.

The Multi-Sensory Experience of Mystery Cults

in the Graeco-Roman Mediterranean:

Making Sense of the Emotions of the Ancient Worshippers

Universität Erfurt, 6-8 May 2022

Call for Papers (Online Conference):

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Tue, 12/14/2021 - 3:11pm by Erik Shell.
A beige terracotta vessel shaped like a long tear drop. A dark-skinned figure faces left wearing striped pants and a draped mantle holds an ax and an arrow.

To say that there was such a thing as racism in classical antiquity would strike most modern readers as odd. However, if we examine what racism means, it is not as striking. The modern connotations of “racism” often instantly call up differences in biological features such as skin color. Historians of antiquity, such as Frank Snowden, have examined ancient evidence in search of racial hatred, working from these modern assumptions about what “race” is. Given those assumptions, Snowden concluded that the ancients did not have an idea of racism or hatred of black people more specifically.

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 12/13/2021 - 12:35pm by .

The panel seeks to bring together academics and non-academics to brainstorm ways in which we can effect positive changes to the field of Classics given its negative past, public perception of the field, and the various institutional policies that hamper its effective teaching and study in sub-Saharan Africa. What has been done so far? What critical challenges persist? And what are the ways forward? 

Date: Monday, December 13, 2021

Time: 2pm-4pm GMT

Venue: Zoom (the link will be sent to registered participants).

Organizer: Michael K. Okyere Asante (UESD, Somanya/Stellenbosch University)

Moderator: Dr Nandini Pandey (John Hopkins University)

The panel discussion will be held in two parts: first, we will receive short presentations from speakers, followed by a general discussion of the issues raised in the various speakers' presentations. We intend documenting the discussions and coming up with a report on the issues raised to guide us in forming collaborations which will address these issues for a better future.

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Wed, 12/08/2021 - 9:38pm by Helen Cullyer.

"'What Has Antiquity Ever Done for Us?'

The Vitality of Ancient Reception Studies, Now."

Online, Wednesday, 15 December to Saturday, 18 December

With #ClassicsTwitter Movie on Sunday, 19 December

View the program at antiquityinmediastudies.wordpress.com/program

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Wed, 12/08/2021 - 9:32pm by Helen Cullyer.

The graduate students of the Department of Classics at The Graduate Center at CUNY are happy to share the call for papers for our Spring 2022 14th annual Graduate Conference, entitled ‘Secret Knowledge in the Ancient World: Acquisition and Concealment.’ The conference will be held via Zoom on Friday, May 6, 2022.

We are pleased to announce our keynote speaker, Prof. Radcliffe G. Edmonds III (Bryn Mawr College).

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Tue, 12/07/2021 - 3:15pm by Erik Shell.

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