Beloved Latin teacher retires after 18 years

From the Cincinnati Enquirer
(with picture of ‘Magistra’ chair)

MADEIRA – Students at Madeira High School cried when
venerable Latin teacher Kay Fluharty announced she was retiring at the
end of the school year.

And they worried. Who could possibly take her place?

They’re feeling better now that they’ve learned a former student will be
Fluharty’s successor. Jenn (Schneider) Bruening, who graduated in 2002,
has taught Latin the last two years at Wyoming Middle School.

“I knew she was the one I wanted,” said Fluharty, who sat in on
interviews for a new Latin teacher. At one point she said she wouldn’t
retire if her successor wasn’t the right fit.

“I care too much about it than to leave it in the hands of someone who is going to let
it fall,” Fluharty said. “How much better could it be than to leave it
in the hands of a student I have liked since the day I met her in
eighth grade?”

Fluharty built Madeira’s program into what it is
today. The high school’s Latin offerings were sparse when Fluharty
began teaching there in 1990, when about 25 students were taking Latin.

Now, a fourth of the school, or about 100 students, take Latin.

She won the Hildesheim Award in 2000 for the best Latin high school program
in the state. The award is given by the Ohio Classical Conference, an
organization of Latin, Greek and classics college professors and high
school teachers.

She’s taken Madeira students to the state Latin
competition for 17 years. This year, students placed first at the Ohio
Junior Classical League Convention for the first time.

“It is really daunting,” Bruening said. “She’s got a huge legacy here to make
sure I uphold and keep going strong. That’s a lot of pressure.”

Bruening said the program will stay as Fluharty taught it. Fluharty’s program
cultivated her interest in the language in the first place.

Bruening
became enamored with the language while watching the Latin Club put on
plays and went on to take Latin five years at Madeira.

“I just knew that Latin was academic, so I kind of wanted to do something that
was a little bit out of the box and unique, instead of taking Spanish
and French,” she said.

Fluharty’s love of Latin inspired Bruening to study the classics and education at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind.

“Latin is ubiquitous. It’s everywhere,” Fluharty says when people tell her
Latin is a dead language. “And I can show it in words that have come
straight through 2000 years exactly the same, common words that we use
all of the time that are everywhere.”

Latin has survived in languages, laws, literature, architecture and customs, she said.

“It’s not a spoken language. There’s nobody out there we can go speak Latin
to, but … it is an avenue to ancient literature. It’s a reading
base,” Fluharty said.

Laura Wallace and Ashley Paluta, who just graduated, organized a surprise retirement party for Fluharty on
Friday. Both took five years of Latin.

“She’s (Fluharty) very passionate about the language,” Wallace said. “Her main goal is to get
her students inflamed with a love for Latin. She’s not just a teacher,
but a friend and mentor. She’s such a loving person. She really cares
about her students.

“I think Jenn is going to do a great job, but she (Fluharty) really is irreplaceable.”

Fluharty said her exit from Madeira’s Latin program is bittersweet.

“I ask myself, ‘Why in the world am I retiring?’ I don’t know that there’s anything else that I can achieve,” Fluharty said.

“I leave it sadly, but in good hands.”

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