NORMAN — Diagnosed as a dead language, dying off with the Roman’s years ago, Latin has been resurrected at Norman High School.
And the school’s Latin teacher, Erin Davis, is leading the renaissance.
At Davis’ persistence, the school is, for the first time, offering an advanced placement level of the language.
“There’s definitely been a resurgence in the last 10 years in the number of people wanting to take Latin,” Davis said, adding that schools where Latin had been extinct are slowly adding back the course.
Davis credited the rebound in interest to elevating college entrance exam scores and those aiming for careers in law and medicine.
And she hopes the AP addition at Norman will help the classical language rival Spanish.
“With Latin classes being so much smaller, anything I can do to pull students into the class is a benefit,” said Davis, who has six students enrolled this year in AP Latin.
Davis said it’s been her goal, since she was hired four years ago, to develop an AP class by her fourth year, so the students enrolled in Latin 1 during her first year would have an AP class by their fourth year.
While enrollment numbers were a worry for Davis and the administration of Norman Public Schools, she said the smaller class size means its impossible for students to hide on the back row.
“They really have to know their stuff because they’re going to be called on at least twice,” Davis said.
And three students vied so much for a spot in the class that they spent the summer bridging their senior year with a Latin textbook.
Norman High Senior Andrew Phillips, who was enrolled in Latin 1 last year, had enough credits to graduate high school a year early.
But the promise of an AP Latin class was one reason he kept the cap and gown at bay for a year.
Phillips spent at least two hours each day this summer studying Latin vocabulary and grammar to be prepared for Vergil, the poet whose translation the class centers on.
“You can get a lot of hours,” said Phillips, who plans to study classical languages in college, of the potential to earn up to 19 hours of college credit by some universities if he makes a 3, 4 or 5 on the AP test.
“That’s practically a minor right there,” he said.
To boost enrollment numbers, Davis said she allowed students, like Phillips, who didn’t take Latin 3 last year, to enroll in the course, with the understanding they would have to study during the summer.
“They’re lacking a little bit on vocabulary and experience, but at any university, you’d have students coming in at different levels,” Davis said.
The class focuses on the translation of the Latin poet Vergil. Students are assigned 10 to 15 lines per night, Davis said.
She said the class differs from other AP classes like AP U.S. History because students are engrossed in one author, one epic for the year, not several people and time periods.
“You really get to know Latin literature,” she said.
Currently, Norman North High School does not offer AP Latin, said Nick Migliorino, director of Secondary Education of Norman Public Schools. He said the potential to offer Latin at North depends on student interest and the instructor.
“The students drive our scheduling,” Migliorino said. “We put a lot out there, and if there are enough students who want the course, then we are going to try our darndest to make that course work.”
Migliorino said Spanish is the only other AP foreign language offered at Norman High.
Ideally, Migliorino said the district would like 12 students to be enrolled next year.
“I always have students starting in Latin 1 ask me if I offer AP, and, now, I can tell them ‘yes,’” Davis said.
Nanette Light 366-3541 firstname.lastname@example.org