Pine Crest Junior Classical League Set For State Forum in Orlando 2018

I was brought to Pine Crest to develop a Latin program and in our third year, we are showing signs of exciting growth.

Not only have we hired another teacher, to teach Latin I Honors and Latin II Honors classes, we also offer Latin III Honors and will expand to AP Latin next year. We also have a lively JCL chapter here known as the Pine Crest Junior Classical League or PCJCL. It has taken some time to develop, but this year we participated in our first ever regional forum at Northeast High School and we jumped into certamen competition at both Level II and Advanced. We came away with 4 medals for 6 participants – 3 bronzes for a 3rd place finish in certamen Advanced and 1 gold medal for classical art in the academic testing category. Not too bad!

We have just been approved for our trip to Orlando to participate in the state forum. It will be our first time and my second (attended with a small contingent from my Somerset program at the time). We plan on heading up to Disney the first day, then being well-represented at the convention over that Thursday, Friday, and Saturday period in April. This will build camaraderie as well as publicize the fact that Pine Crest Latin is a program on the rise!

Heading to Living Latin in New York City!

I continue to evolve my practice in Latin from a grammar-based approach to natural method to now, comprehensible input. It is based on an initial dissatisfaction with not being able to read and think in the target language, despite all of my training. I have been working on instilling CI into my program and have been looking for more training – so I am excited to be able to attend, thanks to the support of my administration back at Pine Crest.

Read more about what I hope to accomplish here on I will miss time with my family, but it will give me incredible momentum moving forward in helping me perfect my practice and really develop our Latin program into one of the most innovative in the country!

The Luminary Set for Proofing!

It started as an idea I had several years ago, I was teaching AP European History and AP Art History at the same time and I wanted an outlet for my students to extend their ideas and develop their skills at doing academic research. It’s an easy leap – students need to develop the ability to examine evidence and investigate ideas. Consumption of information is critical in the age we are living in and assessing its credibility is vital.

Once I keened in on the need for research, I also wanted to give them an incentive that went beyond the mere grade – I wanted to give them an opportunity to publish their work. This would give them a great experience as well as offer them another way to stand out on their college transcript. More importantly, it would give them a sense of pride and validation for their hard work. Thus was born the idea of a student research journal that would be set aside for students taking AP courses.

Fast forward several years and a few stops later, here I am at Pine Crest and serving as department chair (from 2015-2017). We have several post-AP courses being offered where students can take a deeper dive into the content of those courses. For example, I was able to teach Post-AP Art History, where I took the initial course from a power point presentation heavy senior babysitting job to an introduction to art historical methodology and research. Students learned to examine art through various lenses (Marxism, gender and sexual identities, etc.) while also picking an original idea of their own to research.

I went back to my idea about developing a student research journal. I wanted it to be a vehicle for publishing student research and hopefully, down the road, instilling a culture for doing research whereby students may even turn to previous research and expand upon it. I imagined presentations from these students and ongoing academic debates. It seemed that the research being done in my post AP class would serve as excellent potential content and so, The Luminary was born.

As department chair, I wanted this to be an initiative that went up and down our hallway. We had post AP offerings in Mac/Mic Econ, Psych, Gov/Pol, and even Capstone. This would give us a wide range of content to pull from and the best of it would make excellent material for publication. We got buy-in from the entire department and even formed a faculty advisory board to oversee the creation of the journal. We also had administrative support as they recognized the potential of this project for our community.

That was 2015-2016. I had to give up my post AP Art History class these past few years since I was developing the Latin program and just didn’t have the time to teach the course. That presented a particular challenge as I was depending on that for content as well as potential staff to put the journal together. We had a skeleton crew cobbling together the journal and learning how to structure the staff as well as the product. Now it is ready – we have a very innovative and aesthetically pleasing design and the content remains very good as the submissions were culled by a staff of students who each had the courses and knew the content and could verify, with their teachers, that the works were sound.

It took longer than anticipated, and we had to overcome challenges, but we have  emerged with a finalized document ready for publication. We will get the proof, approve it, and then publish a limited run (100 copies) to distribute to the stakeholders and also publish the journal digitally for archival purposes. We hope that this will create a buzz and get students energized. We will then discuss how to move forward and keep this project sustainable for years to come. It is my hope that we can crank out a second volume this year and then continue to do the same each and every year forward!

I want to credit Ava Goldstone and Pedro Damasceno for their tireless work in making this journal, The Luminary | The Pine Crest Journal for Student Research in Social Sciences and Humanities, a reality! Without them. we certainly aren’t where we are today and we probably never make this vision manifest.

Another Year, Another Trip to NYC for AP Art History

This is becoming a true tradition! With more students than ever before in the program (56 students which is up from previous years) we have a big troop headed to New York in March.

The idea behind the trip is to give our students the opportunity to walk through museums having learned about these amazing works of art throughout the year. They will have a deep and enriching experience as they get to see these works in person while being immersed in the excitement of New York City.

We have been doing this trip for years and I am proud to have been able to successfully keep it going. This will be our second year in a row (we had an off year in 2016) and we are adding the Whitney to our tour of the Met, MoMA, Guggenheim, and Frick museums. It’s going to be a lot of fun for the kids and I always look forward to their expressions when they first see an image that they had been looking at on a screen or textbook all year!

Global Competency for AP World History

I am currently planning for my one section (yay!) of AP World History, which I haven’t taught since 2013-2014, and running through the various materials to make sense of everything. As I noted on my AP World blog over on Ricard Academy, this course is a bit of a monster and requires some wrangling to make sense of it.

After you get past the scope of the course (a history of the entire world!) you then have to sort through the stereo instructions that is the Course and Exam Description (CED) which is supposed to help you figure out how best to teach the course. Yeesh.

Yet, having gone through the Project Zero Classroom institute this summer, I can take a deep breath and apply some tools to simplify things. Reading the aforementioned blog post, you can see that I created my throughlines or overarching understanding goals from the CED’s disciplinary practices and reasoning skills (p. 9 of 2017 CED). That alone is going to save my life and help me transition from “busy” to “productive”.

At PZ, I was struck by the notion about “global competency” that Veronica Boix Mansilla was presenting on and attended her session. I wanted to get a handle on what it was so that I can look into applying it into my courses, namely AP Art History and AP World. I took her working definition and turned it into my first overarching goal, hoping to make it a primal focal point for both myself and my students in our study of the history of the world.

Boix Mansilla’s definition, once again was:

  • Global competence is the capacity and disposition to understand and act on issues of global significance.

What I really enjoyed about this definition is the focus on a disposition or development of a mind set. In today’s world, we need more awareness but we also need to temper our actions – or inaction. Most of today’s tension portrayed through the media lens is due to a lack of acknowledgement and a need for quick judgements formulated around labels. If we can not only be aware of what others are thinking and concerned about in other parts of the world, and acknowledge what they are thinking and feeling, we can take a step closer to diffusing any potential conflict. At least, its a working theory of mine.

To take it one step further, acknowledgement does not mean agreement. We should be able to make up our own minds despite the input of information. In other words, we need more listening and less talking at or about each other.

So, in order to help bring this awareness about, and develop this disposition towards global competency, I rephrased the definition into the following overarching understanding statement and question:

  • Am I globally competent? Students will develop the capacity and disposition to understand and act on issues of global significance.

By offering this constant opportunity for reflection, students can self-evaluate their growing state of global competency. When an important issue arises in today’s context, hopefully they will be able to apply it to their study of the past to help flesh out what is going on and then consider what the proper course of action will be.