#16 Why the Classics Matter with Steve Perkins (2014 Indiana Teacher of the Year)

itunes Steve Perkins Latin/Classics teacher, 2014 Indiana Teacher of the Year (North Central High School — Indianapolis, IN)  Resource of the Week: With Rigor for All, Second Edition: Meeting Common Core Standards for Reading Literature

Again and again the Common Core Standards state that students must read “proficiently and independently” but how do we achieve this when students are groaning about having to read demanding literature and looking for ways to pass the class without turning pages?      Carol Jago shows middle and high school teachers how to create English classrooms where students care about living literate lives and develop into proficient independent readers. With 50% new material, With Rigor for All, Second Edition features:

  • integration of the Common Core State Standards as teaching touchstones
  • YA lit pairings with classic texts to aid comprehension for middle and high school students
  • tips to motivate reluctant readers with immersion, encouragement, and small steps
  • a study guide and guidelines for curriculum development.

(email me your favorite resource talkswithteachers@gmail.com)    

Segment I – Background and Inspiration

Tell your story. Where are you from and how long have you been teaching? What classes have you taught?  steve perkins– Steve teaches Latin at North Central High School in Indianapolis. He’s been there since 1998.  He began his teaching career in Kansas City after getting his undergraduate degree from Indiana University. He went down to Texas for graduate school at the University of Texas in Classics studies but then moved back to Indiana in 1998 with his wife.  

Who has helped you in your journey to become a master teacher?  – He has had many but he can point to four. Two were his Latin teachers when he was in high school. Tim Long, a Greek professor, at Indiana University was a mentor when Steve was an undergrad. Finally, his wife Melissa is the real teacher in the family. She has helped him see so many things about teaching.

It is important for other teachers to know that we all have had setbacks in the classroom. Identify an instance in which you struggled as a teacher and explain what you learned from that experience. – He thought his idea of having students blog was going to be fantastic but writing on the web in another language proved difficult. Teachers need to know when something is not working and when to ditch it. Steve had success with blogs in another course, Theory of Knowledge, which is a part of the school’s IB program, but it just didn’t suit his Latin class. 

Why is literacy, and particularly, literacy in Latin important? – The study of Latin helps develop literacy. Students learn to develop good decoding skills. Study another language also foster the ability to see another culture and allows students to bring their culture to another language.

What is one thing that you love about the classroom?  – The creativity and curiosity in the classroom. He describes teaching as that shared journey to discovery. The subtitle of his website is “antiquity never gets old” and he hopes that learning never gets old with him and his students.  

Segment II — Digging into the Teacher Bag of Goodies  

 What book do you recommend to a developing teacher?   — Steve loves the classics so he reaches back to the 16th century with Montaigne and his essay “On the Education of Children.” In it, he states that “the mark of a strong and lofty soul knows how to come down to a child’s gait and guide it.” Another work that has proved helpful has been by George Steiner, his book Lessons of the Masters (Charles Eliot Norton Lectures; 2001-2002).  

What is one thing a teacher can do outside the classroom that can pay off inside the classroom? — Keep the fascination with one’s own discipline. He loves classics and not only has that not waned over the years, it has increased.  Also keep that work-life balance. Students don’t need teachers exhausted because they stayed up till 1am grading papers. They need the teacher at his or her best.

   Is there an internet resource that you can recommend which will help teachers grow professionally? – Steve believes that if he gets sidetracked on the internet, then what must it be doing to 16 or 17 year olds? Twitter is where he is getting a lot of his education articles and news. He believes that it is important to follow your state ed dept. Then, of course, he follows Indiana University School of Education. It is also good to follow the people that you don’t agree with. 

What does good writing look like in a Latin class?  – It takes a couple of different forms. Early on it is about translation. Then you have to move away from that, as they develop a better understanding of language, there are certain idioms that are untranslatable, acknowledging that some things don’t come through in the translation. Finally, the last stage is writing about the literature of another language much like you would in an English class.   

What book should be a part of the school curriculum? — For years he would have said the political speeches of Cicero. Right now, Virgil’s The Aeneid (Penguin Classics) is edging out Cicero. It is a fantastic story, told fabulously well.     Follow Steve on Twitter 

  • Brian, this was a thoroughly enjoyable interview! I love your website and look forward to listening to all the other TWTs. I was very excited to be part of the #APLitChat on Twitter today as well. Keep up the good work in providing a useful forum, both on Twitter and via TWT, for anyone interested in education.

  • Dustin Schimp

    I’m very proud to have been a former Latin student of Steve Perkins, from his first years at North Central in 1998 and 1999. From the beginning he was an amazing and brilliant teacher who was so enthusiastic about the subject matter that it made class genuinely fun. I will never forget the profound influence that he had on me as a student–he inspired me to be passionate about learning, a gift that has served me extremely well throughout both my academic and professional careers. Thanks so much, Magister Perkins, for being such an important part of my life…you truly helped set me on the path to success! I wish you and your family all the best!!