Hackley Senior Combines Interests in Latin, Teaching, and DEI through Independent Study

Sid Shah ’22 couldn’t get enough of the Classics. After taking AP Latin as a sophomore and ancient Greek as a junior, the Hackley senior worked closely with Mr. Sheppard, Chair of Classics, to design an independent study which allowed him to combine his interests in teaching, Latin, and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

Once every seven days, he joins Mr. Sheppard’s sixth-grade Latin class and helps students who are beginning their journey in Latin by leading grammatical exercises and readings. Sid has also designed and taught his own lessons which bring together modern DEI questions and ancient texts.

“It is a joy to see how eager our sixth-grade students are to learn from Sid, and how much he is learning from them through our practice of reflecting carefully on each class.” said Mr. Sheppard. “The spirit of iuncti iuvamus, which is so clearly reflected in the good work they have been doing together, is helping Sid and our sixth graders explore the ancient past more deeply.”  

We sat down with Sid to ask him a few questions.  

Tell us about your independent study, Teaching Latin.

At the end of last year I was talking with Mr. Sheppard about possibilities to continue studying Classics in my senior year. I was interested in Latin and in teaching, and I thought that it would be rewarding to share some of my knowledge, tips, tricks, strategies and insights with students, having taken the classes myself. Once per cycle, I take over and kick Mr. Sheppard out of his seat by teaching lessons and running exercises. In doing so, I’m able to form close bonds with the students.

How did you become interested in Classics and DEI?
I had always been interested in mythology and Percy Jackson. My dad and brother both learned French in high school, so I had planned to do that as well. When a previous Classics teacher gave a presentation on the Latin meanings of spells in “Harry Potter,” I was enamored. I took it on a whim, and I’m now loving it so much that I’m taking three different classes on it. As for DEI and Classics, that began in AP Latin. We were reading Ceasar and I realized that education can sometimes be one-sided, with only a single-story.

My family very much experienced the effects of British colonialism. As a white-presenting Indian person who goes to an independent school, this wasn’t always a conversation I was thinking about. My goal in teaching Latin and incorporating DEI work into Classics is to problematize some of the assumptions that students might have. Through lessons on topics such as ancient and modern educational inequality,  my point is to get the students to think of how they can get involved and grasp the importance of studying things in the past to inform their understanding of the future.

How have you grown from studying Classics, and from this independent study specifically?
Latin and Greek have trained my brain to think of things very logically and analytically. I’ve always liked a lot of subjects, including Computer Science, Math, and History, and Classics brings so many of them together. People ask me all the time, “Why do you learn dead languages?” I tell them that they’re not dead; they’re just not spoken. They’re the best part of English, History, and Language. When I look at a word in Latin, there’s a ton of information there – it’s Mathematical thinking on a micro scale. I’ve been able to see the world differently through Classics.

Teaching Latin has helped me learn how to communicate my ideas better. I’ve become aware of the smaller interactions in a class and how important they can be, and the difference that having a passionate teacher can make. I’ve grown as a person by understanding where others are coming from, and I’m asking a lot of questions and thinking about classroom dynamics in a way I never have before. As a student you don’t pick up on the small things or think of the ways teachers try to make the classroom more inclusive, but now I am, and it’s definitely helping in my own classes! 

What advice would you give to current and future students of Classics at Hackley?
Embrace the weirdness. Embrace the struggle. Every subject gets hard at some point, and there will be times when Latin is difficult. See your errors as points of growth. Hackley provides a discussion-based environment where it’s okay to make mistakes and learn from them. At Hackley it’s a joint, collaborative struggle where we go further together.

“I’m glad that we are creating an environment where students are embracing their nerdiness. It’s cool to be really into Latin and discover the complexities of it, and it’s nice to see students sharing their enjoyment of the subject.” – Sid Shah ’22