1999 was a relatively good year for classics along the Gulf Coast. Although there is widespread concern about the current dearth of new Latin instructors, the CAMWS state vice presidents in the region also had positive news to report.
Kirk Summers, CAMWS vice president for Alabama, reports that for the most part classics programs are doing well in his state. Participation in the state Junior Classical League remains high. Approximately 500 students attended the annual convention held this year at the University of Alabama. According to Summers, the major problem at this time is that the state has a greater need for Latin teachers than it has a supply of qualified applicants. Several schools in the state, both public and private, dropped Latin from their curricula, apparently from a lack of qualified teachers. It should be noted, however, that some new opportunities for improving Latin instruction are available in the state. Last September an immersion workshop in Latin was held for school teachers and students. The newly created classics program at Samford University and the expansion of the existing program at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa are also encouraging news. The latter now has in place graduate classes and the possibility for certification at the master's level.
Classics in Louisiana remains strong for now, according to Scott Goins. He reports that high school programs are in overall good shape and that participation in the Junior Classical League remains high. The Louisiana Classical Association met last fall at the Episcopal High School in Baton Rouge. Although Louisiana traditionally has had a number of solid programs at the secondary level, according to Goins, it is occasionally difficult to locate qualified instructors. At the university level enrollments remain steady or are slightly increasing. An innovative program using distance learning is now in place at McNeese State University and at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. The program will be employed this fall to increase the opportunities for undergraduate course offerings.
Although Mississippi is the only state in the region without a classics organization, some modest progress is evident. The Junior Classical League met this past January in Vicksburg, and for the first time in several years the number of participants is reported to have increased to over two hundred students. Two private schools in Jackson continue to teach Greek in addition to Latin courses of all levels. Several new Latin programs also have been started in public high schools in the southern part of the state. Apparently the number of new programs would have been more, but, like elsewhere, the major problem is finding qualified faculty. At the university level enrollments are remaining constant, although few majors are being graduated to fill the current need in the schools.
Robert Cape, vice president for Texas, reports that classics is healthy in his state. Enrollments in Latin are solid across the state at all levels, and two programs in Dallas and Houston currently offer Greek at the secondary level. The Texas Classical Association continues to serve as an important resource for classics instructors and programs. The association met last fall in Houston and brought together some forty teachers from across the state. The strength of the organization is evident from its journal, Texas Classics in Action. This year the editor of the journal, Ginny Lindzey, received a grant from the Committee for the Promotion of Latin to help cover the cost of producing high quality photographs in an article about photographing ancient sites. Lindzey also continues to update the TCA web site (http://www.txclassics.org/) with useful information for teachers and students.
There is also much discussion in Texas about the lack of qualified teachers needed to maintain existing programs. It is currently difficult to fill vacant positions, even at the rate of current retirements or relocations. With a larger number of projected retirements in the near future, it is likely that a serious shortage will occur. A straw poll at the recent TCA meeting in Houston indicated that nearly half of the teachers present would retire within the next ten years. Cape sees the possibility of meeting the need partially by a newly created Latin major at the University of Texas at San Antonio and by special programs offered elsewhere in the state. For the second year now the University of Texas at Austin is offering a workshop for those preparing to take the Texas teaching certification test in Latin. UT at Austin is also offering summer courses on AP authors, while the University of Dallas continues to support new instructors who are teaching AP Latin by offering workshops in Dallas and Rome; meanwhile, Texas-Tech continues to offer its innovative summer program, "Latin and Spanish Together in the High School Classroom."
The TCA and the CAMWS vice present are also undertaking campaigns to inform high school counselors and students about Latin. The TCA is assembling a body of information from college and university admissions offices about the benefits of taking Latin and Greek and passing this information on to school counselors. In the fall of 1999, Cape sent nearly fifty letters to counselors. He reports that in January of this year he has already received requests for approximately thirty more letters.
Austin College and the CAMWS vice president are further sponsoring a contest for the best Latin promotion brochure made by a Texas Latin club or group of students. The hope is that brochures designed by students will be more persuasive to their peers than some of the strictly informational literature available. The best brochures will be distributed to schools throughout Texas. Prizes for the contest have been promised by the National Committee for the Promotion of Latin and Greek and by Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers.
Perhaps the most encouraging note here is that classicists in the Gulf Region are well aware that the health of their profession depends upon maintaining a qualified corps of Latin teachers in the schools. There are indeed signs that the problem is being addressed. Certainly the ongoing campaigns in Texas and the addition of a new undergraduate major there are promising developments. The addition of an undergraduate program in Alabama and the cooperative program between universities in Louisiana are also welcomed news and may aid in the recruitment of Latin teachers. Further, the expansion of classics graduate programs in Alabama may very well prove beneficial not only for that state but also for such others as Mississippi, where no graduate teacher program in Latin is currently available.