In her two years at St. Andrew’s, Latin teacher Kristin Webster has seen tremendous growth in her program, with enrollment in her upper level Latin classes and placement on the National Latin Exam doubling from her first to her third year.
She credits this success to Mind, Brain, and Education Science strategies that draw on research into the connection between emotion and cognition. She has taken those tools to create a classroom culture that gives students an active voice in their learning.
Technology integration has played a big part in this, she said. Students make grammar tutorials for the class YouTube channel, which they reference when studying for exams, as well as create comic strips, and publish books via iBooks, all in Latin.
“It empowers them to have this individualized learning,” Webster said. “We do a lot of project-based learning with scaffolding and clear expectations, but within that students have a lot of autonomy to go in the direction they want to pursue the medium they want to, and then share what they created with the class.”
Webster brought her classroom culture along with her on St. Andrew’s most popular spring break trip last year – an excursion to Italy and Greece, where 13 students got to see the Latin language jump out of their textbooks and onto monuments and historical sites.
“The things they had only seen in textbooks, they saw in their lives. They could read Latin inscriptions, they could stand under where Julius Caesar had been stabbed,” Webster said. “That was one side of it; the other was watching how much students grow through travel. Students who were shy were suddenly taking on more vocal roles and becoming leaders and pushing themselves to try new things and experience new adventures.”
Webster’s classroom has an open-door policy – Latin students are welcome to sit in on other Latin classes during their study halls, an opportunity some former AP Latin students took up last year.
“They came back to (stay immersed in) Latin even though it wasn’t a class they were taking,” Webster said. “They love learning the language and love having a place that’s theirs where they can go to anytime and be seen.”
This summer Webster introduced her Latin colleagues from around the country to the MBEstrategies that have enhanced her teaching – emotion and cognition, relationships, spaced learning, multiple modalities, among others – during a presentation at the American Classical League conference in New York City.
“I think sometimes the Latin community gets this false reputation for being stuck in our ways, but we’re actually extremely open-minded and wanting to be the best we can be to keep our language alive. So I found, rather than any kind of pushback, it was just receptiveness and a lot of gratitude.”
In addition to teaching five sections of Latin this year, Webster is planning a new spring break trip with English Teacher Dr. Kenneth Waters to Egypt, where students will see how ancient civilizations developed language, literature, and other cultural practices that laid the groundwork for future innovation and collaborative learning.