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Sienkewicz addressing shortage of Latin teachers

Monmouth College students Matt Katsenes and Sheena Glass and professor Tom Sienkewicz display a poster advertising National Latin Teacher Recruitment Week. Both Katsenes and Glass are considering careers as Latin teachers.

Monmouth College professor Tom Sienkewicz is trying to solve a national problem and hopes, in the near future, to be able to say, along with Julius Caesar, "Veni, vidi, vici."

"There is a nationwide shortage of Latin teachers at the K-12 level," said Sienkewicz, the Capron Professor of Classics at Monmouth. "Every year, a Latin program dies because a school cannot find a qualified teacher. Also, thriving programs are told they cannot expand, and schools that want to add Latin are unable to do so."

Sienkewicz is one of the four organizers of a nationwide effort to establish an annual National Latin Teacher Recruitement Week (NLTRW) to raise public awareness of the shortage and to encourage the teaching of Latin as a career. This effort, which has led to March 3-7 being named National Latin Teacher Recruitment Week in 2003, has been endorsed by two national organizations, the American Classical League and the American Philological Association. Several regional classical associations, including the Classical Association of the Middle West and South, are also offering their support.

Two Monmouth College students - Sheena Glass, a sophomore from Galesburg, and Matt Katsenes, a freshman from Frankfort - are considering becoming Latin teachers. They would join a growing list of Monmouth alumni teaching Latin that includes Lisa Wolfe (Galesburg High School), Anna Dybis (Stagg and Sandburg high schools) and Lea Ann Osburn (Barrington High School). Senior Dawn McRoberts is currently student teaching Latin at New Trier High School and recent graduate Jennifer Mitten did her student teaching in Latin last semester at Loyola Academy.

"In recent years, Monmouth College has been producing at least as many Latin teachers as the University of Illinois," Sienkewicz stated proudly.

"The reason I'm teaching Latin now is Professor Sienkewicz," said Wolfe, a 1994 Monmouth graduate. "I took a course from him to fill a requirement, and I kept coming back to his courses because I enjoyed him as a teacher. He encouraged me to pursue a minor."

Wolfe, who teaches approximately 60 Galesburg students in Latin I through IV, said she got her current position because of the national teacher shortage.

"They're few and far between," she said. "The previous Latin teacher retired, and I sort of got drafted."

According to literature published in conjunction with NLTRW, "beginning salaries (are) often in the $30-40,000 range for just a nine- or ten-month contract. And Latin teachers have more fun than most: their students tend to be motivated and academically capable above the average, and the subject they teach is richly interdisciplinary, including not only the language and literature of the ancient Romans, but also their history and politics, philosophy and religion, myths and legends (and) art and architecture."

Wolfe certainly agrees.

"Just last week, I was telling someone that I have the easiest job in the world," she said. "Latin students are highly motivated and are usually bright. They're taking Latin because they want to."

In order to recognize NLTRW at Monmouth College and in the surrounding area, several activities will take place:

* There will be a reading of Homer by Stan Lombardo on the campuses of Monmouth and Knox on March 2.

The Monmouth event, which is free and open to the public, will take place at 4 p.m. in the Whiteman-McMillan Highlander Room in the college's Stockdale Center. Lombardo, a Classics professor at the University of Kansas, will read about the death of Hector and the ransom of his body from his translation of Homer's "Iliad."

* On March 6, there will be an archaeology lecture on the MC campus at 7:30 p.m. entitled "What Is Under the Abbey? Preliminary and On-Going Investigations at the Abbey of Gangivecchio, Sicily." The lecture, which will be presented by University of Iowa professor Glenn R. Storey, will be held in the Highlander Room. Storey will explore the historical significance of the site, which possibly was civilized as early as 1200 B.C. The lecture is free and open to the public.

* Thirty-five MC Latin students will participate in the National Latin Exam. Monmouth College is one of only three or four colleges to administer the exam. Approximately 123,000 students, primarily of high school age, took the 2002 exam.

* Sienkewicz will visit several education classes at Monmouth College to make students aware of the Latin teacher shortage. This ties directly into one of the goals of NLTRW, which is to have "as many educators as possible across the nation (and beyond) find one day to devote to talking to their students about becoming secondary Latin teachers."

* The MC Classics department will distribute NLTRW bookmarks to Latin students at area high schools, including Monmouth High School, and to 350 Latin students from throughout the state who will be at the Illinois Junior Classical League Convention in Chicago. The bookmarks will also be distributed by Monmouth College's office of admission to prospective Classics and education majors.

* Sienkewicz and senior Marty Pickens of Elgin will give a presentation entitled, "From 'Stupid Cupid' to 'Achilles Agony and Ecstasy': Classical Mythology and Pop/Rock Music of the Twentieth Century," to 161 Latin students at Pekin High School on March 5.

If the extensive NLTRW planning that Sienkewicz and his associates have done is successful and more students embark on Latin teaching careers, the professor will surely enjoy echoing Caesar's comment: "I came, I saw, I conquered."


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