Latin’s last year leaves mark on students, school

(Reprinted from the printed January 2020 Network)


“The English dictionary is made up of Greek and Latin words. So if you don’t recognize a word, but you know some Latin, you can deduct what it means,” senior Patrice Roubidoux said. Roubidoux is one of the 11 seniors in Honors Latin IV, the last Latin class Marian will ever have. 

Roubidoux decided to take Latin when she went to open house back in 2015. “I saw Mr. Koesters’ presentation about Latin,” Roubidoux said. “I was the ‘mythology kid,’and I thought, ‘This is so cool!’ I decided to take it and it’s been so fun.”

Latin teacher Mr. Mark Koesters models his toga for the spirit night at the basketball game. Photo courtesy of Koesters

Mr. Mark Koesters has been teaching Latin at Marian for 15 years, although this is his 33rd year here. He also teaches theology. 

“To me, you should study Latin because it is fun,” Koesters said. 

Koesters came to teach Latin in an unconventional way. He hasn’t always been able to understand the classical language. “I took two years [of Latin] in high school, and then started re-learning it when I was 40,” Koesters said.  While he was teaching theology, he noticed the school was struggling to find a Latin teacher after Sister Rosario died. “I went to the principal and asked if I could be the next Latin teacher if I learned Latin, and she said yes. That was 1992,” Koesters said. “Every year I was studying on my own, taking classes at Creighton. I started actually teaching Latin in 2003.”

“Not a lot of people learn Latin; it’s a dead language,” Roubidoux said. Latin is considered to be a dead language because it is not used for everyday use or communication anymore. 

However, that doesn’t mean it is without purpose. “How is it useful? In so many ways!” Koesters said. “First of all, 60 percent of your English vocabulary comes from Latin. French, Spanish, Italian, Romanian, Portuguese — all come from Latin.” 

“To me, it’s useful because it’s fun. It’s unique; it’s old,” Koesters said. 

Latin class consists of translating the language combined with Roman history. “There are readings in our book from Roman history, and I teach the Roman history to go along with it,” Koesters said. “It makes sense; if you are reading Julius Caesar, you have to study who Julius Caesar was.” 

“Latin is a hard language to speak, because the syntax of words is different,” Roubidoux explained. 

Latin is leaving after this year, having slowly been phased out and replaced with Mandarin. “The principal is heading in a different direction,” Koesters said. “I’m sad, because I enjoy it so much.”

“Actually, I would love to continue to offer Latin,” said Mrs. Susie Sullivan, principal. Sullivan was worried about continuity with the program. “I was concerned if Mr. Koesters retired, who would take his place? If students only had one year of Latin and he left or got sick, I had no one to take over. I did not want to leave any student in that position,” Sullivan said. Latin I has been offered as an online course through Arrupe Virtual Learning Institute for the past two years.

“I think it’s really sad. We’ve all grown so close over the past few years, so it’s going to be really hard to leave each other,” said senior Libby Pallesen, another member of Honors Latin IV. 

Latin classes had a one-of-a-kind experience because they were small class sizes that stayed the same for four years. “The benefit is their bond. They [the classes] become a special group and they make good friends with each other,” Koesters said. 

Roubidoux described, “It creates a community; you can rely on each other.”

“It is just a unique, fun experience. Latin makes you think. To me, it is the equivalent of doing geometry; you have to be able to put the parts together,” Koesters said. “Everybody I’ve talked to who has ever taken Latin has never said they regretted it.” 

Roubidoux is certainly not an exception. When asked if she was glad she took Latin, she exclaimed, “Absolutely!” 

“Latin is so fun. I think it’s a good conversation topic, and it has definitely given me a bigger interest in the classics,” Roubidoux said. 

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