Exeter school struggles to find Latin teacher
By Karen Dandurant
EXETER – Although the Cooperative Middle School Board was told filling a vacated seat as a Latin teacher was proving difficult, it does not seem to be a dead language.
Ken Relihan, a consultant for world languages at the state Department of Education, said he thinks Latin is enjoying a resurgence.
“We continue to have Latin programs,” said Relihan. “They are outnumbered by French and Spanish, but more vital than some of the others like German, Russian, Chinese or Japanese. I think that’s a testimony to Latin’s popularity.”
Relihan said he was surprised to hear that SAU 16 was having difficulty filling the position at the middle school.
Richard Brennen, who has been the Latin instructor in the district for four years, is retiring.
Paul Flynn, associate superintendent and director of human resources at SAU 16, said it has been looking through March and April and now has three inquiries, one from New Hampshire, one from Maine and one from Massachusetts.
“We are not finding a lot of masters in Latin,” said Flynn. “We have done conventional advertising, through papers like the Boston Globe, to give us a broad New England reach. We use the Union Leader for comprehensive statewide coverage and use local papers and their Internet connections. We posted the vacancy on our SAU 16 Web site and have sent out notices to various colleges and universities with vacancy announcements in hopes of stimulating interest.”
Relihan said there may not be a lot of Latin graduates but he feels there should be enough so positions can still be filled. He noted the University of New Hampshire still has a strong Latin program.
“I don’t know how many teachers they produce, but there’s also an active classical association in the state dealing with teachers of Latin,” said Relihan. “Just next month, on May 12, they are having student classical day. I went last year, and it is a well-attended event. They filled the auditorium at Saint Anselm’s. They do two a year, one for teachers and one for students.
“It includes a quiz bowl on Latin and is a very impressive event. Latin is definitely a small program in New Hampshire but not a dying program. Other languages are in more trouble. Russian is in trouble, with only one program left. There used to be 10 and the one will be gone next year. German is also in decline.”
Flynn said SAU 16 has offered languages at the middle school for a long time, in the hopes of students going forward at the high school level.
“The DOE publishes every year a critical shortage list and foreign languages, most all of them, are on there most years,” said Flynn. “But math makes the list. Music makes it as do almost all of the sciences. Some areas of special education make the list.”
Because of the shortage, Flynn said the state is offering alternative certification programs to bring people from outside of the usual teaching programs into the classroom.
“Sometimes in the areas of foreign language, math and science, you don’t see many coming in who majored in education,” said Flynn. “Often people have gone into industry in those areas and they do that for a while and find it’s not the career they are really looking for, so they look back to education.
“Salaries and benefits are strong in the education field, so a lot of people with masters in chemistry or biology look at us. New Hampshire offers a couple of opportunities for them to become certified to teach as opposed to going back to school. The same holds true with masters in French, Spanish, Russian and Latin.
“The issue for us is whether they are certified in the content area; it takes time. They must apply to the state and send their college transcripts. The state assesses them and issues a statement of eligibility. A graduate with a concentration in Latin probably wouldn’t have a problem but still needs to go through the process. Then some candidates have interest at high school level, but the vacancy is at middle school. That can affect the decision of candidates.”
Judy Phillian, head of credentialing at the DOE, said Latin has been difficult to fill for years because teacher preparation programs are thin.
“Most Latin teachers use non-traditional routes for credentialing,” said Phillian. “There are still people with a strong Latin background but in the past few years very few teachers in Latin. It is a difficult area in terms of filling vacancies but still not impossible.”