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Latin Teacher Certification: Training Future Secondary School

Ronnie Ancona

Classical World, Volume 102, Number 3, Spring 2009, pp. 311-315 (Article)

Published by Classical Association of the Atlantic States

DOI: 10.1353/clw.0.0094

For additional information about this article

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Teacher Training Programs: Meeting the

Challenges of the New Century*

Latin Teacher Certification: Training Future

Secondary School Teachers

ABSTRACT: This article outlines why one might want to get certified to
teach Latin at the secondary school level as well as the steps involved in the
certification process. Its intended audience includes current secondary school
teachers, prospective ones, and those individuals involved directly or indirectly
in the professional and/or academic training of current or future Latin teachers.
The author draws upon her experience directing the M.A. program in Latin
Adolescent Education at Hunter College in New York City.
The following discussion provides an overview of the process by which
individuals become certified to teach Latin at the secondary school level in
the United States. My intention is to offer useful information to potential
Latin teachers, to college classics faculty interested in helping potential Latin
teachers to get certified, and to current secondary school Latin teachers,
certified or not, who are seeking a broader picture of Latin teacher training
than their own specific experience might have produced. My remarks come
from the perspective of someone who has directed a graduate level Latin
teacher training program for twenty years.
As most readers will know, there is currently a shortage of Latin teachers
at the secondary school level. Unless there are people ready to teach Latin to
the next generation at this educational level, our profession may not survive
in the form we know it. Teacher certification, of course, is a requirement for
teaching in public schools. While it might seem that knowledge of subject
matter would be all that is necessary to teach Latin, my experience in Latin
teacher training has shown that knowing how to deal with adolescentsand
parents and administrators and colleaguesis just as important to teaching
success at the secondary level as knowledge of the subject (or content) area.
Fortunately, the requirements of certification help the potential teacher to
learn both parts of his or her jobteaching Latin and teaching adolescents.
Why should someone who wants to teach Latin get certified? While many
private schools do not require their teachers to be certified, certification is
necessary for teaching in public schools, and some potential teachers know
they want to become part of public education while others at least want to
have that kind of career available to them. In addition, some private schools
like to have a certain percentage of their teachers certified. Still further,
some public school teachers are paid more than some private school teachers,
which provides added financial incentive for a potential teacher to acquire
certification. One teacher I know had her salary almost double when she
These papers are revised versions of talks given on a panel, Teacher Training
Programs: Meeting the Challenges of the New Century, organized by Prof. Elizabeth
Keitel for the Committee on Education of the APA and given at that organizations
annual meeting in 2006. The panel was given again at the annual ACL Summer Institute at Philadelphia in 2006. For the second panel, Judith Hallett spoke in place of
Lillian Doherty; they have since combined forces to produce the paper published in
this collection. The papers were prepared for publication by Elizabeth Keitel.



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moved from a parochial school job in New York City to a public school job
in an affluent New York suburb. (I should add that she now makes close
to $100,000 per year.) Therefore, even the person who might be planning
to teach in a private school should consider getting certification in order
to have other options open. With the No Child Left Behind legislation, the
public schools are now under real pressure to have qualified teachers in the
classroom. While a clever district may manage to hire someone, for example,
as a substitute teacher without certification, especially if it has difficulty
finding someone certified, not all districts will do this. If a district cannot
find a certified teacher, a Latin program in a particular school may be shut
down; therefore, our profession as a whole has a great investment in getting
potential Latin teachers through the process of certification.
In the M.A. program in Adolescent Education in Latin at Hunter College
in New York City, students get a masters degree and New York State secondary school Latin certification by the time they graduate. (In New York,
a masters degree is required for permanent certification.) For the student
interested in preparing for a Latin teaching career at the secondary school
level, such a program offers the advantage of combining advanced training
in the language and culture with the necessary pedagogical courses, all in a
program that guides the student through the sometimes elaborate and tedious
steps to certification. In New York, at least, the trend is towards gaining
certification through such a state-approved teacher education program. Even in
New York, however, one can still get initial certification to teach by fulfilling
certain specific requirements outside of such a program. In addition, some
states have so-called alternate route certification programs, which allow for
getting certification in an accelerated fashion. Two graduates of Hunters M.A.
program were able to pursue New Jersey alternate route certification when
they got public school jobs in that state while still completing our program.
For the novice, the process of gaining teacher certification can seem
overwhelming. It is necessary to check frequently various requirements as
one moves along the path to certification. The prospective teacher must take
this in stride. He or she eventually will acquire all the necessary information
and will accomplish the requirements, despite the many bureaucratic details.
On the path towards certification, learning about both Latin and teaching will
take place. While knowledge of subject matter (Latin) is of course essential
for successful teaching, getting certified entails mastery of other features
of secondary school teaching as well that will only enhance the potential
teachers preparedness for the classroom.
The requirements for certification vary from state to state. These requirements are always being updated. For an excellent survey of requirements for
certification in Latin as of 2004, one can consult the material compiled by
Mary Pendergraft for the Joint American Philological Association/American
Classical League Committee on Classics in American Education which appears
on the APA website at:
For accurate and up-to-date material on certification in the United States,
it is essential to contact the Education Department of the state in which
certification is desired. Individual states will also make available information on whether reciprocity (that is, recognition of one states certification
by another) is offered to individuals certified in other states. What follows
is a description of the steps towards certification likely to be encountered,
using as a model the State of New York.
Certification typically involves coursework in the content area (Latin),
coursework in Education, supervised teaching experience in the schools, and

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examinations. Perhaps the most obvious requirement is coursework in the subject

or content area. While fulfilling this requirement may seem straightforward,
potential teachers and those who advise them need to know that completing a Latin major as an undergraduate does not automatically mean one is
considered to have had enough coursework in the content area for certification. In New York State, for example, teachers must have 30 semester-hour
credits in Latin to obtain initial teacher certification. (An M.A. is required
for permanent certification.) Therefore, the student aiming to teach may have
to take Latin credits beyond those of a typical undergraduate major in order
to begin teaching. College department advisers should become aware of their
own state requirements so they can encourage their potential Latin teachers
to take additional Latin credits before graduation, if needed.
Coursework in Education entails a variety of classes on topics such as the
history of education, educational psychology, assessment, literacy, drugs and
alcohol, child abuse, and teaching methods. In these courses, students learn
about educational theory, adolescent development, and classroom strategies,
such as how to handle discipline, how to organize ones time and the students time, lesson planning, and test writing. The classes may also involve
observing actual classroom teaching and testing out material with real secondary school students. These courses are, in general, taught by Education
Department faculty. They are typically not related to the students content area
concentration, except, for example, when a Latin student might choose to do
a particular assignment, for example devising a test, in his or her content area
specialty. Some Education programs, for a teaching methods class, will group
all foreign language students in one class. In the program at Hunter College,
Classics faculty with background in Latin pedagogy, rather than Education
faculty, teach the two required Latin teaching methods courses. This allows
for focus on pedagogical issues in the context of Latin, including discussion
of such matters as grammar-translation versus reading-approach textbooks,
technology for the Latin classroom, Advanced Placement Latin, and so on.
The Methods 2 class requires many hours of classroom observation and also
incorporates projects involving computers and Latin and teaching Latin to
diverse learners. The students benefit greatly in these classes from discussing
with their fellow students and a faculty member who is knowledgeable about
both Latin and Latin pedagogy at the secondary school level what they are
observing or what they are already doing in the Latin classroom.
Supervised teaching is also part of the certification process. The kind
of supervised teaching with which people are generally familiar is student
teaching. In this supervised activity, students are placed in a school with
an experienced teacher for a semester. The student observes, helps out, and
finally does some independent teaching. He or she receives feedback from the
experienced (or cooperating) teacher as well as from the supervising faculty
member from the teacher preparation program. An alternate way of fulfilling
the supervised teaching requirement, and one that has been used by the vast
majority of students at Hunter, is the two-semester teaching practicum. In the
practicum, the student is observed by the supervising faculty member while
teaching his or her own regular classes in a paid teaching job. The benefit
of this alternative is that the student is already working as a Latin teacher
while being observed. Most of the students at Hunter need to or want to
earn a living while taking their graduate classes. (The M.A. classes are all
given in the early evening to accommodate working people. Some students
already teach Latin, for example, in a private school. Others work at various
nonacademic jobs.) Through the practicum, the self-supporting teacher does


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not have to take time off from an income-bearing job in order to student
teach. In fact, most of the students at Hunter get Latin jobs while still in
the graduate program and are therefore able to substitute the practicum for
student teaching. Even those with jobs in public schools may be able to follow this route. New York State recently adopted an Internship Certificate,
which allows teacher certification candidates who have finished half of a
teacher preparation program and have met some additional requirements to
be hired as regular classroom teachers in public schools. The control over
them is that they must take the practicum class (that is, supervision of their
teaching) each semester until they complete their certification. A few Hunter
students have started teaching in New York State public schools under this
new certificate.
The final component of the certification process involves the taking and
passing of certain standardized tests. These are intended to ensure that the
future teacher is broadly educated, literate, and knowledgeable in both pedagogy and the subject to be taught. In New York State, for example, certification candidates must pass the Liberal Arts and Sciences Test (LAST), the
secondary version of the Assessment of Teaching SkillsWritten (ATSW),
and a Content Specialty Test (CST) in the content area of the certification
(Latin). Similar exams may go by other names in other states. The Praxis
Exams, from Educational Testing Service, are a popular alternative. One
of the requirements for admission to graduate teacher training programs at
Hunter is a general education core in the liberal arts and sciences, including
college credits as follows: 6 credits in English, 3 credits in the arts, 6 credits
in social studies (to include at least one course in United States history and
geography), and 12 credits in math/science/technology (a college calculus
course counts as 6 credits).
Students are encouraged to take the first of the required tests, the LAST,
which consists of multiple-choice questions and a written assignment, before
entering the program. Passing it before the completion of 12 credits in the
program is required. The liberal arts core and test are designed to produce
teachers who are broadly educated, not only educated in the field they will
be teaching. The second exam to be taken is the secondary school version
of the ATSW, also in multiple-choice and written format. This exam tests
professional and pedagogical knowledge for secondary level education. These
first two tests, of the liberal arts, and of professional/pedagogical knowledge,
are required for initial certification in New York State, as is the third test,
which covers the content area. (Until recently, this final test was not required
for initial certification.)
For Latinists, the third test, CST, is called Latin and Classical Humanities
in New York. It, too, has multiple-choice questions and a written assignment.
In addition, it has an oral component requiring the student to read aloud a
passage of Latin that appears on the exam. This test assesses knowledge and
skills in the subject area to be taught. It is of this sort of exam or its Praxis
equivalent that Classics educators should be aware. The skills it tests are
ones that the student should be able to acquire in the college setting. For
example, if the content area test requires proficiency with oral Latin, that
skill may be something that college teachers will want to require routinely
of their students in college level Latin classes, if they do not already. If
sight-reading skills are necessary to pass the exam, likewise, they may want
to incorporate this experience into their college level testing, if they do not
already do so. While faculty need not suddenly turn their undergraduate and
graduate level Latin classes into content area test preparation courses, they

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will benefit future Latin teachers if they are, at a minimum, aware of the
requirements of such exams and perform some activities that may enhance
potential teachers performances on them. College Latin teachers can play a
significant role in helping to ensure that future secondary school teachers of
Latin have the requisite skills for certification to teach Latin.
The potential secondary school Latin teacher should find out the requirements for certification in the state or states where he or she might want to
teach as early as possible. Getting certified is something for future teachers
to consider, even if contemplating private school teaching, for they will learn
something about pedagogy in general, which, in my opinion, is as essential
for successful teaching at the secondary school level as knowledge of the
subject area. College teachers should find out what certification entails in
their particular states so that they can assist potential Latin teachers through
their Latin classes and their advising and career counseling. In addition, they
should educate themselves about the standards for teaching languages other
than English in their own states to see how their college Latin teaching might
incorporate some of those same standards, so that the students they teach in
their college classrooms will learn and know the material they are expected
to teach eventually to their own students. For example, if oral communication is a standard that the secondary school Latin teacher must have his
or her students meet, college Latin teachers should consider whether such
things as required reading of Latin aloud in the college classroom might help
to prepare future secondary school Latin teachers. (For New York States
Learning Standards for Languages Other than English, including Latin,
see: Those already certified and teaching Latin at the secondary school level can help to spread
the word about current certification requirements in order to help potential
future colleagues join them in teaching Latin at the secondary school level.
The certification process helps to ensure that Latin teachers have met
certain standards of general knowledge, pedagogy knowledge, content area
knowledge, and classroom experience. This provides an excellent basis for
helping the potential Latin teacher to begin his or her career with a solid
foundation. The next generation of secondary school students deserves qualified
and confident Latin teachers in the classroom who can make the learning of
Latin the best it can be. Indeed, with the demand for certified Latin teachers
and the current shortage, the continuing success of Latin at the secondary
school level may depend upon all classicists helping in various ways to
advise and train the next generation of Latin teachers.
Hunter College and The Graduate Center, CUNY
Classical World 102.3 (2009)