NORTHERN PLAINS REGION
On the whole, it has been an upbeat year for Classics in the Northern Plains, highlighted by several large-scale events. They began last June with the annual Institute of the American Classical League (ACL), hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, under the direction of Vicky Pagán, CAMWS Vice-President for Wisconsin. In December a Ludi Romani Saturday organized by Michelle Breuer Vitt of Minnehaha Academy (Minneapolis) attracted more than 100 students from a dozen schools, for competitions, games, skits, mini-sessions, and pizza. Well attended Junior Classical League (JCL) conventions were held in Wisconsin (January--500 students) and North Dakota (March). On March 13-15, St. Olaf College produced its 13th biennial Latin play (Plautus' Rudens). Director Anne Groton and her 19-member student troupe made a 250-mile, two-day tour to secondary schools (a combination of public, private, and parochial) in St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Rochester as well as to Macalester College and the University of Minnesota. The academic year will conclude in May with the perennially popular Concordia Latin Days in Moorhead.
Last November the Wisconsin Latin Teacher Association (WLTA) met at the annual convention of the Wisconsin Association of Foreign Language Teachers in Appleton. The WLTA focuses on teaching Latin in high school; Vicky Pagán would like to see the creation of a state organization with broader aims and larger membership: “The WLTA is investigating the possibility of mounting a web site that would greatly facilitate communication. A state Classical organization would foster more interest in the Classics among the citizens of Wisconsin and allow teachers and professors a chance for outreach to the wider community.”
Such an organization has existed in Minnesota since 1981 and is still going strong. The Classical Association of Minnesota (CAM) met for its annual meeting on Saturday, October 26, in St. Paul at the Humanities Education Center. Everyone seemed pleased with the mixture of events on the program: brief reports and announcements from each of the schools represented; presentation of CAM's Latin Teacher of the Year Award to Michelle Vitt; a guest lecture (“The Wandering Womb in Greco-Roman Magic and Medicine”) by Christopher Faraone from the University of Chicago; discussion of the difficulties involved in becoming licensed to teach Latin in Minnesota; lunch; papers by two graduate students (Aaron Poochigian and Anna Stelow) from the University of Minnesota; discussion of the logistics of taking trips abroad with students; afternoon reception. At the CAM meeting, copies of the first issue of Mercurius, a newsletter for Minnesota's more than 2200 (the figure has gone up by c. 200 since Dennis Rayl, CAMWS Vice-President for Minnesota, surveyed the schools four years ago) middle-school and high-school Latin students were available for teachers to pick up; in the future the newsletter will be distributed to most of the teachers as an e-mail attachment, which they can download and duplicate. Editor Christopher Nappa is now hard at work on the second issue.
Dan Erickson, new CAMWS Vice-President for North Dakota, reports that Latin continues to thrive at the high-school level in Bismarck, Fargo, Grand Forks, and Minot. Both a major and a minor in Classics are offered at North Dakota State University in Fargo. Course enrollments and the number of majors and minors have increased significantly at the University of North Dakota-Grand Forks since it replaced (in 1999) its major and minor in Latin with a major and a minor in Classical Studies, giving students more flexibility in scheduling. Efforts are under way to make it possible once again for UND students to become certified Latin teachers through a cooperative program with Concordia College-Moorhead. Dan writes, “We applaud the efforts of CAMWS in publicizing Latin teaching. The new brochures are most helpful in sparking interest in our noble profession. Several of our high school and university students are seriously considering Latin or Classics as a career.”
Only in South Dakota is the future of Latin not looking bright. Clayton Lehmann, new CAMWS Vice-President for that state, expresses his frustration with the situation there: “Early in the academic year I sent letters to the three Latin teachers in South Dakota schools, reminding them of the opportunities for fun, travel, and funding offered through CAMWS, but had no responses. The Latin program in Sioux Falls has been curtailed so that it's offered at only one of the three public high schools, but remains available to any student willing to travel to the campus where it's available. I have written several times over the last two years to administrators and school board presidents at Yankton, most recently to the new principal, and had no response. Here in Vermillion the Latin teacher retired two years ago and was replaced by a teacher who offers only German.” Any ideas on how to help out South Dakota would be welcome.
In the Northern Plains, one of the biggest challenges to the teaching of Latin at all levels is the dismal economic climate. Latin programs are easy targets for administrators who have to make cuts. The Minnesota Humanities Commission, which has been supporting CAM with a grant of $1000, renewable each year, just announced that it has suspended its grant program until at least July, 2003, because of “uncertainties regarding legislative funding” both from the state government and from Congress. Whether the budget crisis will delay the opening of Nova Classical Academy, a charter school with Latin required for all of its students, in St. Paul this coming fall remains to be seen.
The most urgent needs in the Northern Plains are to train, to certify, and to locate more Latin teachers to fill positions as they open up, before they are eliminated on the grounds that no licensed Latin teacher could be found. A position was recently lost in Waukesha, Wisconsin, when the former Latin teacher was not replaced. Vicky Pagán reports that two UW-Madison students and one Marquette University student will be certified in June, with two more in training at UW-Madison and two more in training at Ripon College. As Vicky puts it, “In Wisconsin, every week is National Latin Teacher Recruitment Week!”
In Minnesota last fall, Anne Groton successfully used the CAM e-mail network to find a replacement for a junior-high Latin teacher in Edina, who quit unexpectedly in the middle of the term. On the other hand, she and Steve Smith (Latin Language Coordinator at the University of Minnesota) have not yet found an answer for two Minnesota secondary-school Latin teachers who are caught in a Catch 22: they must become licensed in order to keep their jobs teaching Latin in public schools, but the only Minnesota universities with education programs will not allow them to enroll in their night or summer education courses since those universities are not authorized to offer licensure in Latin--even though it is not the Latin courses that the teachers need to take! Just when it looked as if an “alternative pathways” program would be approved by Minnesota's Board of Teaching, the state imposed a hiring freeze; since the program cannot officially begin until someone is hired to administer it, all that can be done now is to wait.
It seems that the only source of funding one can still count on is the Committee for the Promotion of Latin (CPL). CPL's 2002-03 budget contributed $300 for the purchase of new certamen equipment, to be used at Wisconsin JCL conventions, $200 for a Pompeiana persona presentation to 300 students in Madison in April, 2003, and $300 for a workshop on Classica Africana, to be led by Michele Ronnick at the annual meeting of the WLTA next fall. Thank you, CPL! And, of course, thank you to the four CAMWS state vice-presidents, and to all the other dedicated Classics teachers, here in the Northern Plains.