BA 2008, Combined Greek and Latin with a Minor in Poetry Writing (Highest Honors)
Latin Instructor, Thales Academy Rolesville
During the course of my workday, scores of people eager to understand the language of the Romans ask me questions such as, Why does Latin have irregular verbs?, Who decided to make Zeus the god of oaths if he’s so unfaithful in his own marriage?, and Do I have to memorize this chart? You see, the scores of people I interact with on a daily basis are my junior-high-aged Latin students.
A younger version of myself would be surprised: I had formerly planned to study microbiology; then, once I began studying Greek along with Latin, I had firm plans to continue in academia. As a young person encountering all the heady and thrilling ideas Classics presents, I had little foresight regarding the practical impact Classics would have on my eventual career.
I chose to teach at the secondary level because I believe in the power of the Classics to positively impact the development of young people. I can imagine no better way to connect with and empower a very diverse group of learners than to hear their voices and read their work with the same attentiveness and care that I developed when first reading the Latin elegists or Sophocles’ Electra in UNC’s Classics department.
In my second and third years of teaching, I also began to understand that many of my professional obligations exist outside classroom lessons. I must, of course, communicate with my colleagues, administration, and students’ parents. However, I also build curricula (at times, for students as young as third grade and as advanced as high school seniors), organize events for students, train teachers in areas as different as technology and classroom management, and serve on boards of organizations who sponsor student competition and provide professional development for teachers. A Classicist’s command of language, theory, and a broad scope of academic disciplines are at a premium in many groups. Rather than regarding my academic background as arcane, many employers and colleagues have viewed it as valuable capital.
To those considering a major or minor in Classics, I would agree with the inkling you may have that this field of study is much different than that of some of your peers whose majors are synonymous with their career paths. Future Classicists will spend years developing themselves as accurate, clear thinkers; they will study ancient Greeks and Romans who endured the same discipline. The results, both for the ancients and for us, are educated people who can apply many cognitive and creative skills to many disciplines. This is the sort of flexibility for which growing schools and other employers have voiced desperate need; if choosing Classics feels like choosing your passion for now, it will later become clear that you have also chosen a pursuit that provides you with skills your employer and colleagues will value.