Q: Where did you get your degree and how long have you been teaching?A: I earned my undergraduate degree at LoyolaUniversity in Chicago with a double major in Literature and History and received my master’s in Education from NationalLouisUniversity in Evanston. This is my tenth year of teaching at Cherokee.
Q: Are you fluent in a language other than English?
A: I studied French in college and although I read it pretty well, I haven’t had the opportunity to practice speaking it.
Q: Just so we know how fortunate we are, give us an idea of the number or % of schools that introduce Latin at the elementary level?
A: There are several Eastern private elementary schools who offer Latin. However, as far as I know, there are only three schools who offer Latin to second and third graders. Most schools begin their program in fourth grade. There is one magnet school in Chicago and one other school in Bristol, England, who offer it to the younger students.
Q: How often are you at Cherokee and how frequently do you work with the kids at each grade level?
A: I only work two days a week and only at Cherokee. Each grade has one hour of Latin per week with a half hour each day.
Q: People say that Latin is a “dead” language. If not fluency, what goals do you establish for the students that you teach? A: Our primary goal in presenting Latin to our students is to introduce them to the fundamentals of how to study a foreign language. Latin was chosen because it is the root of the Romance languages. Therefore, if our students decide to study Spanish or French in fourth grade, they will have a foundation due to Latin. We have chosen the Latin vocabulary carefully so that our students may see the similarity in the words.
Eighty percent of the Romance languages and sixty percent of English words are derived from Latin. We emphasize derivatives in our classes by reinforcing the concept that if you now one Latin word, it may lead you to know more vocabulary in either English, Spanish or French.
From a literary standpoint, our students leave third grade knowing the Twelve Labors of Hercules, both the Greek and Latin names of the twelve Olympian gods and goddesses along with many of their mythology related stories. They know the story of Troy, the “Iliad” and the Travels of Odysseus. We structure our course around the gifts the Romans have left behind highlighting their culture, conquests and engineering feats.
Except for your native language, which is learned through repetition and auditory methods, languages in general are taught through grammar. By emphasizing grammar and parts of speech, we prepare our students to study a foreign language.
Q: What teaching methods do you use to promote Latin learning with the kids?
A: Repetition, songs, grammatical terms, stories, maps, reading Latin dialogues in front of class and videos.
Q: In a perfect world, what more would you do to promote Latin learning?
A: I would like to erase the image that Latin is a “dead” language. A dead language is a language that is not currently spoken in a country. Latin is very much alive, as it is prevalent in scientific and legal terms in the arts and sciences. In the past it was the universal language as English is today.
Q: What would you like parents to do at home that would support your efforts in the classroom?
A: I am introducing a Web Page—due to be out in time for Winter break. I would like parents to take a few minutes and read the recap of the week’s lessons and if the child has an interest or has missed something, either contact me or reinforce the information at home. My Web page will suggest further reading and some on-line sources that may be of interest to students.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to tell us about your work or yourself?
A: This Latin course is pure enrichment for your students. We are not expecting any high level of expertise, other than to have them enjoy the course and for them to have high expectations of what lies ahead in whatever language they choose to study in fourth grade. Hopefully, the course will inspire them to read further on any topic that interests them or catches their fancy. Many of our boys take an interest in the Roman army and the many battles they fought. The girls seem to take an interest in the mythology stories.
As for myself, I thoroughly enjoy the subject matter and teaching your children. Most teachers wait for an “ah-ha” moment. Because of the nature of our material, my classes experience “ah-ha” moments continuously as this is such new and different material for them. The students are enthusiastic every time I meet with them and it is this atmosphere of learning in which we strive to keep them for the later years.