At Athol High School, Latinum non est mortuus

  • Athol High School Latin mentor Kris Rodriguez, left, and Principal David King. ATHOL DAILY NEWS

For Athol Daily News
Published: 1/12/2020 4:28:27 PM
Modified: 1/12/2020 4:27:43 PM

ATHOL — Many people — and many public high schools — mistakenly believe that Latin is a dead language. Once among the languages offered schools nationwide, Latin is an option available to a diminishing number of American students.

At Athol High School, however, instruction in the ancient language is still available.

“Latin has been here since I’ve been here,” said Principal David King. “I got here in 1999, and it was here before that. It’s been a course that’s been very valued by our staff and by our students. We had a pretty consistent Latin teacher from when I was in high school here up until probably about 10 years ago, when that teacher retired. Since that time, we’ve tried to maintain the Latin course, from Latin I all the way up to Latin IV; and we’ve managed to keep it.”

“The challenge,” said King, becomes finding a highly proficient educator that makes a connection with students and can deliver the proper instructions and all those things that go along with what’s in a good classroom. We’ve had some really good ones, and we’ve had some that we’ve moved on from.

“We had a great Latin teacher — Jon Moro — for two years. The kids were really enjoying the instruction, really enjoying the course. Unfortunately, his commute was from an hour-and-a-half away. He made the commitment to come here because he saw the value we had given the subject, but two years of that long commute really ended up wearing him down and he ultimately found a position closer to his home.”

King said another teacher had been recruited before the start of the current school year to teach Latin, but in November an opportunity arose for her to teach in her chosen specialty, which was Spanish.

“So, that left us in mid-November with no Latin teacher for these students,” he said.

Enter Kris Rodriguez.

Rodriguez, with a background in library sciences, has been given the position of mentor for the more than 40 students currently in the Latin program. With Rodriguez’s guidance, the students are employing the Latin curriculum offered by Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Edgenuity, which offers a broad range of online courses for students in grades K through 12.

Asked why he thinks students opt to take Latin, rather than Spanish or American Sign Language, Rodriguez said, “Latin is the foundation of many other languages and it’s applicable across many disciplines. So, I’m not sure exactly what the motivation is, but I would imagine that because it’s really used everywhere, it has a common appeal. It’s a great language.”

“I do find the teachers that are in the Edgenuity program,” he explained, “really do want to see the students succeed. They’re willing to provide students opportunities to find success in their classes. So, I’ve been happy with the collaboration with those teachers that I’ve had so far.”

As to the reason behind Latin’s decline in popularity as a language elective in U.S. high schools, King reiterated, “Finding highly qualified individuals to teach it is a major challenge. There are certainly a lot fewer people with Latin certifications — classical Latin — than those certified in Spanish. Those highly qualified Latin teachers are definitely tough to find.”

That being said, King said he intends to advertise to fill the position of Latin teacher in the next school year.

“We’re looking to provide the best teachers for our students,” said King, “and whether that’s another Spanish teacher here in this building, whether it’s an American Sign Language teacher, whether it’s a Latin teacher — those are the three foreign language classes that we have approved in our courses, in our program of studies. When we post the position, and it will be soon, those will be the three things we post and we’ll ultimately look to hire the best professional.

“We’re committed to making sure the students know, if they’ve already put one year in to Latin and they’d like to put the second year in, we’ll make it work.”

Or, loosely translated, “puteus facere opus.”

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