In May 7 IssueBy Kim GrahamNews-Register Reporter
Most middle school students these days are well versed in texting lingo, video gaming, and online social networking but a class of students at Russell County Middle School is blazing a trail in the ancient language of Latin.
Latin I students at RCMS have dedicated their attention and committed their time to learning the language in addition to their regular school day.
"They have been really committed to doing the time after school," said Tarter.
For an hour and a half after school each Monday through Thursday, 6 students have studied Latin the entire school year with their facilitator, RCMS teacher Mickie Tarter.
She said they have a teacher from KET in Lexington, Mrs. Denny, who instructs the class in a video on DVD.
"If we have questions we can always email (Mrs. Denny) and she's always there for us," Damron said.
Tarter said when she was teaching the class for the first time, she was told the facilitator doesn't need to know Latin but she soon realized she did need to know Latin.
"(Mrs. Tarter) is learning the language with us," said Russell County 7th Grader Jessica Damron.
Tarter said she took the class with the students because she didn't have Latin in high school.
She said she began Latin I class during the 2008-2009 school year but didn't have another class until this year.
Initially, nine students enrolled in the class and six students persevered to not only complete the course but many also finished with honors.
"This year they took the National Latin Exam," said Tarter. "Mainly the exam would be given to freshmen in high school because that's generally when you would take Latin I."
As seventh and eighth graders they took the exam and 4 students were awarded for their high scores.
RCMS 8th grader Jonathan Proctor and 7th grader Josh Melson received Silver Maxima Cum Laude while 7th graders Clay Ackerman and Jessica Damron received Cum Laude.
The students received certificates in commemoration of their achievements.
Some of the young scholars have aspirations of medical careers but a common goal is to earn high school credit.
"When we did Latin I three years ago, (Russell County School Board) made a policy whereby students in 7th and 8th grade who made an A or a B in Latin class would receive credit for one year of foreign language at the high school," said Tarter.
Students are also interested in increasing their knowledge to score high on the ACT, a college entrance exam taken during the junior year of high school.
"Of course, (the students) want to score high enough (on the ACT) to get a scholarship or get some college paid for," said Tarter. "The practical application of Latin on the ACT is that it has been proven that students who have Latin score higher in the reading and language section of the ACT."
Through Duke University's Talent Identification Program (TIP), high achieving 7th Grade students have the opportunity to take college entrance exams alongside high school students.
Proctor was chosen for the TIP program last year.
"I had taken the ACT in 7th Grade and Mrs. Tarter had told me learning Latin would help me in the English part when I take it again in high school," said Proctor.
He also said earning high school credit was another reason he chose to take Latin after school.
Like Proctor, 7th grader Lanae Reed would like to get ahead by earning high school credit but it was her grandma's prodding and her mother's insistence that urged her to take the class.
"My Grandma wouldn't quit bugging me (about taking Latin) and I wanted the high school credit," said Reed.
She said her grandma told her Latin would help her later in life.
"Reed's grandmother had Latin in high school," said Tarter. "That was one reason I think she saw the application throughout her life and she wanted that for Lenae, too."
Her grandmother works as a lab tech where knowledge of Latin is essential to understanding medical terminology.
Reed's mother wouldn't take no for an answer when it came to registering for the class.
"I made her (take Latin I)," said Alena Johnson, Lanae Reed's mom. "I will stand over her shoulder if need be…Mom encourages her, I make her."
Johnson is inspired by the students' devotion to learning the classical language.
"I have to say that, kids their age just going into middle school taking Latin is impressive," said Johnson. "I'm surprised the amount of people in this class room are willing to keep that commitment to (an afterschool Latin class)."
Still, Reed is more excited about the social aspect of the class than the actual class itself.
"It's boring but I like it," said Reed. "I like the people in (the class)."
Abby Wilson, 7th grader at RCMS, has similar feelings about taking the class but followed her mother's advice.
"I didn't really want to," said Abby. "My Mom wanted me to (take Latin)."
She also said she wanted the high school credit.
Jessica Damron aspires to enter Carol Martin Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science, located at Western Kentucky University, which offers a residential program for highly motivated Kentucky high school students who plan to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
"I wanted to take Latin first of all for high school credit but also because I want to apply for Gatton Academy," said Damron.
Not only do Gatton Academy students complete high school but they also earn sixty all expense paid college credit hours during their tenure at the school.
Tarter hopes skills Latin students have learned will assist them in achieving many goals in their lives.
"They've learned so many things apart from Latin that are of such value in life - study skills, time management, and English vocabulary" said Tarter. "Another thing is they don't have anything that challenges them as much as Latin and when they have the opportunity to see what they could do if they tried."
One such student, who completed Latin in 2009 at RCMS, attends Gatton Academy.
"We have a student now at the Gatton Academy from Russell County, Chris Brown," said Tarter. "He actually stayed for Latin in after school when he was in 8th grade."
Half the RCMS Latin class has their sights set possibly on medical careers.
"Right now I'm cycling between two," said Damron. "I either want to be a forensic pathologist or I want to join the military."
In addition to Damron, Clay Ackerman would like to become a Pediatrician and Josh Melson is considering a career as a pharmacist.
Learning a foreign language in middle school may also help students with math scores by allowing them more time in high school to take advanced math classes.
"One thing we notice with students at school is that they don't score as high on math," Tarter said. "Hopefully, (students who take Latin I) have gotten their foreign language out of the way and they're free to take some math classes before their ACT so they can score higher."
Johnson sees the class preparing these students for their future advanced education.
"In a way (Latin) gives them a taste of college classes," said Johnson. "They're going to be a lot more challenged when they get out of high school and go to college and It's going to take a lot of motivation to take it upon themselves to get things done."
Plans are being discussed to provide Latin I as well as Latin II next year at RCMS.
"What we would probably do is offer Latin I and II during the school day and then the students who had taken Latin I last year and want to do Latin II are pretty much familiar with the routine," said Tarter. "So, I think they could go on with minimal help from me and (Latin II students) would be there to help the Latin I students."
All students, except one, said they are interested in taking Latin II next year.
"I've been really pleased with how well they've done this year," said Tarter.
Latin I, with the instruction of Mrs. Tarter, seems to motivate, enrich, and academically challenge the students.
"I think Mrs. Tarter helped us a lot," said Ackerman. "We wouldn't have gotten anywhere without her."