New teaching methods are energizing the study of Latin, and students are having fun with it.

Soft Skills40 years ago, Patty Mullis started teaching Latin, drilling students on grammar and sentence structure. Today, her approach is different. She sees her mission as waking up the “dead language.”

“I tell the kids, Latin is everywhere you look! Medical terms, legal terms, even Harry Potter spells!” Mullis said. At the Maine Junior Classical League spring competition, she was avidly cheering on her students from Nokomis Regional High School.

“Teaching at first was all geared to grammar and we’d bring in the mythology and culture to keep the kids from going crazy,” Mullis said. Today’s approach is more active, as students recite Latin poetry, study the political and culture history of the Roman empire, and read original works in the language.

Interest in Latin is waning, with drops in the number of students taking the national Latin Exam over the last few years. Some schools are dropping their Latin programs, even in schools where Latin was a long time staple subject.

Even Cheverus High School in Portland, the last Jesuit school in northern New England, is dropping its Latin program next fall. It will not offer Latin to incoming freshmen and current students will finish out their Latin studies online.

“We have seen a sharp decrease in our enrollment in our Latin classes,” said Cheverus High School spokeswoman Bethany Hanley or the last Jesuit school in northern New England.  “Education evolves.”

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