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 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.

"Fragments of ancient, rare manuscripts of Greek classical poetry, Greek philosophy and Judeo-Christian Scriptures are being retrieved from papier-mâché-like mummy wrappings on loan to Baylor University -- all part of an international project that will give undergraduate humanities students rare hands-on research. The project, called the Green Scholars Initiative, eventually will include more than 100 universities, with Baylor University as the primary academic research partner. Professor-mentors will guide students through research and publication of articles about rare and unpublished documents, among them an ancient Egyptian dowry contract on loan to Kent State University and an ancient papyrus of Greek statesman Demosthenes' famed "On the Crown" Speech, said Dr. Jerry Pattengale, initiative director and a Distinguished Senior Fellow with Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion." Read more at baylor.edu …

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Wed, 09/14/2011 - 1:59am by Information Architect.

"New technology developed by Oxford University’s classics department could help reveal the secrets of historical documents. A spin-out firm is commercialising the scanning device, which uses different wavelengths of light to detect faded or erased ink, for analysing manuscripts and archived documents, as well as modern forgeries. ‘The technical leaps we made mean many ancient documents that were previously unreadable can now be scanned and read,’ said Dr Dirk Obbink, head of the research group that developed the scanner."

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Wed, 09/14/2011 - 1:57am by Information Architect.

The Philadelphia Marriott Downtown Hotel will serve as the headquarters hotel for the 143rd Annual Meeting. The Convention Registration area, the Exhibit Hall, all AIA and APA paper sessions, the Placement Service offices, all placement interviews, and most committee meetings, receptions, and special events will be located in Marriott.  The primary guest room block will also be at the Marriott. Some meetings, receptions, and special events will be held at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel, located directly across the street from the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown. Additional guest rooms have been blocked at the Loews as well.  Links to the online registration system and to information about hotel reservations are now posted on the APA web site.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Wed, 09/07/2011 - 3:22pm by Adam Blistein.

From John Gruber-Miller:

I am pleased to announce that the latest issue of Teaching Classical Languages, the online journal sponsored by CAMWS, is now available at http://www.tcl.camws.org.  This issue features two articles and a review article.  The first article asks us to consider the broader question of how do we teach, using the metaphor of genre to frame our reflections. And the second article explores how we teach Latin to students whose first language is Spanish and second language is English. Finally, the third article reviews eight new Latin readers published as part of the Bolchazy-Carducci new Latin Readers series.

This issue lets readers take advantage of TCL's electronic publication.  Readers now have the opportunity to download each article to an e-reader so that they can read TCL in the comfort of their home or favorite coffee shop.  And through the advice and hard work of CAMWS webmaster Alex Ward, readers can make comments on the articles and join in a conversation with other readers (and the author) about ideas raised in each article.

In this issue:

View full article. | Posted in Member News on Tue, 09/06/2011 - 1:17am by .

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