“It’s my favorite class,” was the first thing I heard, unprompted, as I snuck into Mr. Alleyne Roger’s Latin 3 Honors class before the bell rang.
The students were chatting amongst themselves, excited for the day’s lesson. Their eyes were bright and they were smiling. I quickly learned this was just the norm.
So what is it about this particular class that had the students beaming? In short, the innovation, creativity, and enthusiasm of Mr. Rogers himself. Last year, Mr. Rogers noticed that his Latin 3 students were frustrated with the translation exercises from the textbooks; which were purposely designed to be slightly more difficult than the students’ current level of knowledge and made learning a challenge. Seeing this, he seized an opportunity to introduce the students to Ritchie’s Fabulae Facilies (Latin texts that are simplified versions of the myths).
Starting with the Hercules stories, which he described to me as a type of soap opera that provided a running plot line for the students to follow throughout the semester, the lessons suddenly became comprehensible at their level and fun to translate. This year, he’s continuing the break from the textbooks for his Latin 3 students and has set the goal to be able to jump into the second volume of the texts at the end of the year; ideally preparing them for Advanced Placement Latin classes and giving them an understanding of the language that they’ll take away as having been worthwhile.
The assignments he’s created allows students to work collaboratively to translate the stories as a group every day in class. They each bring their unique strengths together to end up with the best translation possible. In the students’ own words, “It’s not like every other class, it’s not just coming in and doing the same thing every day…it’s more interesting”, “We’re able to put our own twist on class…it’s exciting”, “Something that scares me about Latin is translating alone…everything we translate is a group effort and it’s more fun that way.”
One of the incredible things Mr. Rogers has witnessed through the group approach is the students’ commitment to helping each other succeed. “It’s a game for them and they’re trying to help their partner,” he said, “they’ll have all these different, interesting ways of giving each other clues,” and in the end, the students are interacting with one another, having fun, and learning.
To make it all happen, Mr. Rogers dedicates countless hours to keep one step ahead of the students, starting from scratch and designing original classroom activities and tests that both challenge and engage. From vocabulary cards and Latin Bingo to crossword puzzles and metacognitive tests with multiple sections for the students to select from, the repetitive engagement nearly makes it impossible not to learn. The pure excitement that Mr. Rogers can’t help but display is nothing short of contagious, and the response from the students, “it’s so satisfying.” They love it.
For Mr. Rogers, the work day doesn’t end in the classroom, it’s about building relationships to mentor and support every one of his students, doing his part to help them grow and achieve future success. At the end of my short conversation with his class, they told me, “he really cares about his students; he’s involved.” Whether it’s a TMI choir concert or an outside event, he’s there to show his support. “It’s really cool to have him there and care about you personally.”
Do you have a favorite teacher from your childhood who influenced your life? Tell us your story in the comments below!
Director of Community Relations, TMI