Repertum Mirabilis: A Surprising Discovery

Great Hearts Academies June 7, 2023

Ancient statue replicas

I pursued graduate study in Classics to become a university professor. Why should I consider teaching at Great Hearts?

It’s a natural question, not least because of the enormous commitment of time and effort that graduate study demands. The intellectual life of scholarship and teaching that a university post can offer would seem the obvious choice. Why change course?

I understand this question and know it firsthand, “from the inside” as it were. When I graduated with my Ph.D. and first went on the job market, the prospect of teaching high school was not in my plans. To the contrary, my pursuit of the doctorate was aimed all along at landing a coveted tenure-track position at the university, where I was looking forward to the intellectual leisure for research that such a position affords. This was my plan, but the realities of the job search soon forced me to consider alternatives.

A surprising discovery

It was then I discovered Great Hearts Academies, a network of charter schools with a liberal arts curriculum. In that curriculum, classical Latin holds a central place: three years of study are required of all students in the middle school grades, with an option to pursue two additional years in high school, along with two years of classical Greek. A lover of classical languages will find ample opportunity to pursue this love when teaching at Great Hearts.

Dr. Derek MorrowIn fact, Latin remains a permanent fixture throughout the entire curriculum and for all students, not just for those in middle school, and not just for those who opt for the classical language track in high school. Even those who take up a modern language (three years are required, with an option for a fourth in the senior year) never leave Latin behind. From middle school onwards, Latin has shaped how they approach foreign language study in general, acquainting them with the morphology and syntax of an inflected language, and habituating them to think analytically about these features. In this way, their prior exposure to Latin in middle school equips them with the necessary tools for further language acquisition. Consequently, the teacher of modern languages at Great Hearts can teach with Latin in mind as both a point of reference and a point of departure, knowing that by the time they reach high school at a Great Hearts academy, students already have this essential background in Latin.

At Great Hearts, the reach of Latin extends beyond its pride of place in language courses. Latin also shows up regularly elsewhere in the Great Hearts curriculum, in ways that inform and enrich that curriculum. It is not uncommon, for example, for a Humane Letters seminar to make note of a Latin derivative, or for a biology class to employ Latin nomenclature to classify the taxonomy of living things, or for a course in the American rhetorical tradition to make use of the Latin categories of ancient Roman oratory. Latin is well-nigh omnipresent, tacitly or overtly, in principle and in practice, throughout the Great Hearts curriculum and its practitioners.

Okay, but why would I want to teach children?

I must admit that this was my greatest reservation—but also my greatest surprise—about teaching at Great Hearts. Thirteen years ago, when I first began my career at Great Hearts, the thought of teaching children felt like a step down from the type of teaching I had experienced at the university. Not having taught children before in a traditional classroom setting, I imagined that such teaching would not be challenging enough, would not be intellectually stimulating enough, would not be fulfilling enough.

I soon discovered, however, the exact opposite was the case. Teaching children opened to me a new world of learning and wonder that makes each day in the classroom a joy to experience. Children exude wonder. Their questions provoke wonder and sharpen one’s thinking. Watching their minds and souls develop as they encounter, often for the first time, the great books of the liberal arts, is fulfilling beyond measure. Not a day goes by without such moments.

Consider a career teaching Latin at Great Hearts. You will likely be as pleasantly surprised as I was—and as I continue to be, thirteen years now and counting.

Submitted by Dr. Derek Morrow. Dr. Morrow is a treasured member of the Anthem Preparatory Academy faculty and has been with Great Hearts since 2010.Learn more about teaching opportunities at Great Hearts:

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