From grades 9 through 12, I was fortunate to have three wonderful Latin teachers. My first was Joyce Woller when I was a freshman, which in my day was part of the junior high. In my last post I wrote about how a friend and I walked each day from our junior high to the high school in order to take this class. Miss Woller was a good teacher, although I do remember being confused about interrogative pronouns and relative pronouns. She laid a good foundation of grammar using our textbook, Latin For Americans.
In my sophomore and junior years, I continued Latin with Miss Alice Ranck. She was a legend around New Albany High School, and I quickly saw why. At first I was rather intimidated by her incredibly fast speech, but I adapted and came to love this lady who made Latin come alive. We continued our grammatical focus using the same textbook and made our way to Caesar in Latin II. Latin III saw us in Our Latin Heritage, which includes large selections of Cicero. Many students grow to love what their teachers love, and since Miss Ranck's favorite author was Cicero, he became mine as well. I thrilled to the oratorical pyrotechnics of the Catilinarian Orations and savored his philosophical works, such as De Senectute and De Amicitia. I have returned often, in both my teaching and in private life, to the eulogy of learning that is his speech in defense of Archias.
In these years with Miss Ranck, I discovered the Junior Classical League and an event called certamen. This is a team-based ancient knowledge game in which a team of four students with buzzers answers questions against two other teams. A toss-up for ten points can only be answered by the person who buzzes in, but the two bonus questions for five points each are answered in consultation with the team. With questions ranging from mythology to history to grammar, I loved it. Putting this together with local club meetings that included a Roman banquet and performances by the band of club members called Storm Front (I distinctly recall their rendition of Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It"), I was hooked on Latin.
It came as a great disappointment to learn that Miss Ranck was retiring at the end of my junior year to marry her high school sweetheart. While we all wished her well, we wondered what the future would hold. I could never have guessed that Miss Ranck's replacement, a young teacher from Illinois, would become a lifelong colleague and friend.