CAMWS Northern Plains Region
Annual Report

After two years of natural disasters—everything from floods to twisters—, it is pleasant to report that all is quiet now in the Northern Plains, at least as far as weather goes. All has not been quiet here on the classics front, however. While there are still relatively few schools in our region that offer courses in Latin, Greek, and/or Classics, most of the programs that do exist are thriving, and several new ones have sprung up, the majority of them in private or parochial schools. There are no imminent threats to college or university classics programs in the region. Gustavus Adolphus College has rebounded from last spring’s devastating tornado; CPL contributed $117 toward the cost of mailing out a promotional letter to incoming first-year students at Gustavus.

In Minnesota Dennis Rayl contacted all of the secondary-school Latin teachers and prepared an updated mailing list (with e-mail addresses); in the process he discovered that there are now nearly 2000 students studying Latin in grades 6 to 12—three times more than were studying Latin in Minnesota a decade or so ago. Twice-a-year Saturday Latin Bowls, hosted by Trinity School and Minnehaha Academy, continue to be popular events, attracting participants from more schools each year. In March Anne Groton and a troupe of 17 classics students from St. Olaf College took Plautus’ Miles Gloriosus on the road to four schools in southeastern Minnesota—300 miles in one very long, exhausting, exhilarating day.

In South Dakota Jay Mickelson continues to be a one-man high-school Latin dynamo; he will be hosting yet another annual statewide Roman banquet—his 26th!—on April 10. This year, because he is teaching German too, he has been able to offer just one section of Latin I, along with Latin II and Latin III. On the college level, Greek 101 and 102 are returning to The University of South Dakota after a hiatus of three years; Brian Cherer, who is working on his dissertation in Classics at the University of Missouri-Columbia, will be offering the courses in 1999-2000.

In North Dakota enrollments remain strong in the two traditional Latin strongholds, Bismarck and Fargo. David Volk’s students have begun an outreach effort, visiting sixth-grade classes in Fargo during National Latin Week to drum up enthusiasm for studying the language. As always, North Dakota Latin students and teachers will be participating in the annual Latin Days (May 13-14) at Concordia College.

In Wisconsin Latin is holding its own, with one exception: a successful program at Watertown High School suffered a setback because of a teacher’s very late unexpected resignation and the inability of the system to find a suitable replacement. As Eddie Lowry puts it, "Distance learning for Latin was adopted as an allegedly provisional solution, but it cannot be ruled out that this is the beginning of the end of a flourishing program that has had excellent administrative, parental, and community support." This sad situation might have been avoided if a better communication network existed; CAMWS state vice-presidents in the region could and should serve as contact persons who bring together potential Latin teachers with the schools that need them, supplementing the efforts of the ACL Placement Service.

The Junior Classical League is flourishing in North Dakota under the leadership of David Volk and Neil Souther, and in Wisconsin under the leadership of Jim Greenwald. The annual North Dakota state JCL convention was held at Bismarck High School in mid-March; 162 students from Fargo and Bismarck attended. Latin students in Minot, ND have just joined the JCL bandwagon and are looking forward to participating in JCL events in future years. Some 250 students from 15 schools attended the recent state JCL convention in Madison, WI, and last summer more than 60 students from Wisconsin attended the national convention in Amherst, MA, at which Nate Witkins of Beloit Memorial High School was elected second vice-president.

As usual, the annual meeting of the Wisconsin Latin Teachers Association (WLTA) was held in November in conjunction with the Wisconsin Association of Foreign Language Teachers. WLTA President Fred Dobke had arranged an appealing program that included a three-hour workshop on teaching Latin and classics to minority students led by Professor James Clauss of the University of Washington; his travel to the meeting was subsidized by a grant from CPL ($300). Other presentations were made by Carol Lawton on Roman coin propaganda, by JoAnn Polito on art and Latin, by Dan Taylor on Latin and critical thinking, by Gail Stone on Latin portfolio assessment, and by Elyce Moschella and Jolie Zimmer on articulation between secondary and tertiary levels. The 1999 WLTA Latin Essay contest, under way for a fourth year, has been named the Fannie LeMoine Essay Contest in memory of the distinguished University of Wisconsin-Madison classics professor who died last August; during her career she had supervised the professional training of many of the state’s most dedicated secondary-school teachers.

The Classical Association of Minnesota (CAM) met for its annual meeting on October 24, 1998 at Macalester College in St. Paul. Keynote speaker was Eugene N. Borza, Professor Emeritus of Ancient History from Pennsylvania State University, on "Images of Alexander the Great"; his talk provoked a passionate response from a contingent of Greek-Americans from the Twin Cities. Another highlight of the meeting was the presentation of CAM’s Latin Teaching Award to veteran teacher David Simms of St. Paul Academy; shortly thereafter the Minneapolis Star Tribune put the spotlight on David in a feature article called "A Classic Comeback" (with color photographs!). After a panel (Gene Borza, Beth Severy, Jan McGlennon) on "The Use of Film in Popularizing the Classics," the meeting ended with spirited Greek dancing led by Byron Bekiares. CAM continues to award a $10 prize to any Minnesota student who receives a 39 or 40 on the National Latin Exam.

CAM members voted to amend their constitution to permit residents of other states (particularly the Dakotas, where no state professional classics organization exists) to join CAM. Connie Evans, CAM Secretary, received CPL funds ($87.54) to cover the cost of duplicating and mailing out the CAM Newsletter, with gratis copies for classicists in North and South Dakota. We hope that this first small step will lead to larger-scale cooperative classical ventures in our region and encourage more interaction between the college/university classics faculty and the secondary-school Latin teachers in our region. David Volk, buoyed by the success of the NJCL convention held at North Dakota State University in the summer of 1997, now has ambitions to host an ACL convention there. If that plan materializes, it will require all of us to pool our energies and resources.

In the future it is hoped that more high-school Latin students in the region will participate in the School Awards Translation Contest (not just the National Latin Exam), more colleges and universities in our region will nominate students for a Manson Stewart Scholarship, and more secondary-school teachers in the region will attend CAMWS meetings, with or without the support of a Manson Stewart Travel Award. A better job of publicizing these opportunities needs to be done.

The regional vice-president wrote letters of concern about the future of Classics at the University of Saskatchewan and about the exclusion of Classical Civilization courses from Ontario’s new secondary school curriculum, receiving courteous but not altogether reassuring replies.

The region’s four faithful state vice-presidents, Dennis Rayl (Minnesota), David Volk (North Dakota), Judith Sebesta (South Dakota), and Eddie Lowry (Wisconsin), deserve many thanks.