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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The APA Committee on Ancient and Modern Performance (CAMP) seeks participants for its performance at the APA Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.  This year’s play is the premiere of The Jurymen, an Aristophanic take on the last days of Socrates, written by Katherine Janson, and directed by Amy R. Cohen.  We need actors, musicians, stage crew, and helpers for our limited-rehearsal staged reading.  Rehearsals will begin on Wednesday, January 4 and the performance will take place on the evening of Friday, January 6.  Send an e-mail describing your interests and talents to acohen@randolphcollege.edu, by September 1, 2011.  Read the script at apollonejournal.org.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Thu, 07/07/2011 - 3:16pm by Adam Blistein.

The Joint Committee on Placement and APA Staff are developing a system that will bring greater automation to the process of registering candidates and institutions for the Service and of scheduling interviews at the 2012 Joint Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.  We hope to have this system in place by the beginning of September.  While this new system is being developed, the Service will operate in the following manner:

For candidates:  Placement Director Renie Plonski will send an e-mail to all candidates registered for last year’s Service (2010-2011) stating that, unless they wish to discontinue their subscriptions, they will continue to receive e-mails around the 1st and 15th of each month containing all position listings recently submitted to the Service.  Any new candidate who wishes to receive the semi-monthly e-mails may be added to the e-mail list at no charge by submitting that request to Renie (plonskii@sas.upenn.edu).  Note:  Once the new automated system is implemented, we will no longer use this interim e-mail list.  All candidates wishing to participate in the 2011-2012 Service will need to register for it and pay the required fee. 

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Thu, 07/07/2011 - 2:37pm by Adam Blistein.

"Two years ago, an archivist at Tufts University was sifting through manuscripts in the library's special collections when he came across a lone, unlabeled folder. To his surprise, it contained a stack of documents that no one then at the library had ever seen, some of them dating back to the 12th century. The Tisch Library Miscellany Collection was born. Now, Marie-Claire A. Beaulieu, an assistant professor of classics, has a novel way of identifying the documents and translating them from Latin to English—she's having her students do it. The 15 undergraduates and graduates she enlisted became historical sleuths, opening the cold case of the centuries-old texts; their work has been published online in the project's digital archive." Read more at The Chronicle of Higher Education online.

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Thu, 07/07/2011 - 12:51pm by Information Architect.

From the website of Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford:

Everyone at LMH was deeply saddened by the death of Dr Simon Price on 14 June 2011. Simon was a distinguished scholar, and a much appreciated teacher to generations of students in Ancient History and in Classical Archaeology. He continued researching and writing after he had taken early retirement in 2008. He was able to complete The Birth of Classical Europe, written in collaboration with Peter Thonemann, which has recently been published in paperback by Penguin.

Simon’s funeral will be on Thursday 23 June at 2.45pm in St Margaret’s Church, 19 St Margaret’s Road, Oxford, OX2 6RX. All are welcome.  

The family has asked people not to send flowers for the funeral but if anyone would like to make a donation in Simon’s memory to do so for the Ancient History Fellowship at LMH. This was Simon's wish.

Cheques, made payable to ‘LMH Development Fund’ and marked ‘Simon Price’ should be sent to the Development Office, Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, OX2 6QA.  Donations may also be made online.

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Wed, 07/06/2011 - 3:52pm by .

"When the name Cleopatra is mentioned, images of a powerful, exotic seductress may come to mind. While that may not necessarily be false, a Miami University professor is looking to flesh out the infamous femme fatale in a presentation working in conjunction with the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal’s exhibit of the Egyptian queen. Associate professor of classics Denise McCoskey’s presentation, “Cleopatra, a fatale monstrum? Encountering the Egyptian Queen in Roman Literature and Propaganda,” examines Cleopatra’s entire person, both as an able, multicultural ruler of a powerful state as well as how the Augustan propagandists presented her in the midst of Rome’s civil war — an image McCoskey said endures to this day."

Read more at http://beingcleopatra.blogspot.com.es/2011/08/cincinnati-lecture-encountering.html

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Sat, 07/02/2011 - 5:48pm by Information Architect.

"Trojan Women (after Euripides), a new version of one of the greatest anti-war dramas of all time, will be the sixth annual outdoor theatrical production in the Getty Villa's Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman Theater. New York-based Siti Company, one of America's leading ensemble theater companies, will perform an original retelling of Euripides' ancient Greek tragedy, in the world premiere of a Getty-commissioned production. These performances will mark one of Siti Company's rare appearances on the west coast. Directed by the company's artistic director Anne Bogart, the play features original music composed by Christian Frederickson and a text adapted by playwright Jocelyn Clarke."

Read more at losangeles.broadwayworld.com…

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Sat, 07/02/2011 - 5:44pm by Information Architect.

"On Friday, July 1, 2011, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) opens a suite of new permanent galleries, reintroducing its visitors to the ancient civilizations of Rome, Byzantium and Nubia. Several never-before-seen objects are featured while others have been unseen by the public since previous galleries were closed in 2004 during the Renaissance ROM expansion project. To showcase these remarkable empires as never before, extensive new videos, shot on location, are featured alongside impressive artifacts in this new, dynamic space." Read more at artdaily.org…

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Sat, 07/02/2011 - 5:33pm by Information Architect.

"Some time in the 1920s, the Conservative statesman F. E. Smith — Lord Birkenhead — gave a copy of the “Nicomachean Ethics” to his close friend Winston Churchill. He did so saying there were those who thought this was the greatest book of all time. Churchill returned it some weeks later, saying it was all very interesting, but he had already thought most of it out for himself. But it is the very genius of Aristotle — as it is of every great teacher — to make you think he is uncovering your own thought in his. In Churchill’s case, it is also probable that the classical tradition informed more of his upbringing, at home and at school, than he realized." 

Read more of Harry Jaffa's review of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics (Robert C. Bartlett and Susan D. Collins, trans.) at the New York Times online…

View full article. | Posted in Book Reviews on Sat, 07/02/2011 - 5:31pm by Information Architect.

Mary Beard regrets that an elegant history of Rome is marred by howlers. Read the review at The Guardian online.

View full article. | Posted in Book Reviews on Wed, 06/29/2011 - 1:13pm by Information Architect.

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The Digital Classicist is a decentralised and international community of scholars and students interested in the application of innovative digital methods and technologies to research on the ancient world. The Digital Classicist is not core funded, and nor is it owned by any institution. The main purpose of this site is to offer a web-based hub for discussion, collaboration and communication.

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