Latin Teacher, Boston Latin School

This is the first article in a new section of the Classics webpage, in which we check in with alums from the department about their lives and careers after BU. First in the series is Michael Howard who started at BU in 2010 and graduated in 2014 with a BA in Ancient Greek and Latin. He now teaches Latin at Boston Latin School. Department Chair James Uden recently interviewed Howard about his time at BU and the value of his Classics education.

How did you first become interested in Classics?
Well, I started at BU as a student in the College of Engineering, but I had gone to high school at Boston Latin Academy. So, I already had five years of Latin and one year of Ancient Greek. I was also coaching my high school’s Certamen team during my time at BU. Pretty soon my interest waned in engineering, and switching to Classics was a no-brainer after my first year.

What did your family think about the switch to Classics?
Most of them knew about my interests, so their response was: “about time you realized!”. My Mom took a bit more convincing because she didn’t realize there were job opportunities for people with Classics degrees. Once I did some research and could convince her that there were jobs, she was happy for me to do anything that made me happy.

Are there particular memories you have of your time in the department?
So many! One of my favorite memories was acting in the Aristophanes play, which then became the Plautus play. Being able to engage with classmates and faculty on stage was very memorable. In Professor Klein’s Roman Comedy class, we wrote the script of the play collaboratively, so we were actually able to put it all together ourselves.

Another fantastic experience was being chosen for the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome. The program itself was formative, and going through the selection process, being interviewed, and then being chosen – it was all so validating.

Now you’re a teacher yourself. Does being a teacher match the expectations you had for your career?
Pretty much immediately after becoming a Classics major, my goal was to return to my high school as a Latin teacher – and I got pretty close! [Howard attended Boston Latin Academy and now teaches at Boston Latin School. Both are public exam schools in Boston, MA.] Even though I wanted to be a teacher, I’m not sure what I expected it to be like. Learning how to manage a classroom is something that doesn’t happen until you’re really there. Now I’m taking on a student-teacher for the first time this year. It’s all a lot of work, but rewarding work.

Do you have any advice for current BU majors?
Yes, one of the things I enjoyed about being in the department is that there are so many different types of courses. You might think you’re a Latinist, or you prefer history, but I recommend branching out as much as possible. I remember taking Professor Samons’ ‘Warfare in Antiquity’ class and loving it. I also took Professor Uden’s class on pastoral poetry, and had no idea what to expect. I found my paper on Endelechius the other day, and it’s the most in-depth piece of writing I did at college!

And what about advice for students who want to go into high school teaching in particular?
Pay attention to detail. One of the skills I developed on the job as a teacher is paying close attention to situations and considering them closely before jumping in and making a decision. A close reading of a text is also a great preparation for that. Also, network as much as possible. You never know where your classmates will end up, or how your paths will cross in the future.

Thank you very much to Michael Howard for this interview!