Latin teacher Jane Batarseh

Large Latin class means teacher must adjust former teaching style

For the first time, teacher Jane Batarseh has a large Latin II class of 19 students.

Batarseh, who usually teaches classes with six to seven students, was surprised when she learned in mid-July that she would have such a large class.

“I’m so happy to have such a large interest and class increase in Latin,” Batarseh said.

According to Batarseh, the unusually large Latin II class is primarily the responsibility of middle-school Latin teacher Brian Billings.

All the freshmen who took Latin with Billings received lots of Latin knowledge and experience, she said.

Along with the freshmen in Latin II, four sophomores have switched into the class from other languages.

“I think that many students have dropped their old language to switch into Latin because of the oral aspect of other languages,” Batarseh said.

“Some people are uncomfortable with speaking a language, and Latin is an alternative to that since it’s a dead language.”

Junior Alexa Mathisen, who took French II last year, switched into Latin II this year.

“I really want to go into medicine when I grow up, so switching to Latin would help prepare for that profession,” she said. “I also want to have as many languages under my belt as I can.”

The large class size has forced Batarseh to introduce a new teaching style.

Unlike previous years, she has now put all classwork and homework online.

Before, Batarseh would print and hand out her chapter packets to students, but now they are all available on Google Drive.

“In a larger class students will more often not hear me, so now if they ever do miss what I said in class, they can find it online,” Batarseh said.

Sophomore Miles Edwards took Latin I last year. This will be  Edwards’s second year in Batarseh’s Latin class.

“This year she’s a lot more strict,” Edwards said. “Since there are a lot more people in the class she has to be stricter to make sure we are all paying attention.”

Along with posting chapter packets online, Batarseh also posts PowerPoints and in-class material.

“Having everything online is extremely helpful,” Mathisen said. “I know when all the homework is due, so if I feel confident in the material I can finish homework before it’s due. It really helps with time management.”

Edwards agreed.

Now he can study material whenever he wants and get ahead, Edwards said.

With the advice of her daughter Amanda, ‘01, who teaches Arabic at UC Davis, Batarseh has developed another teaching style.

Batarseh’s daughter helped with the development of Oculus, a program to help students learn vocabulary. Oculus involves PowerPoint slides with  pictures on them.

“This new technique teaches students to associate the pictures of people doing things with Latin words,” Batarseh said.

“Normally students would label the pictures (to explain what was happening in the picture on each slide) with English phrases. But Oculus teaches students to describe the picture’s events with Latin words, which deeply immerses them in Latin.”

Not only does Oculus teach students to associate the activities in the picture with Latin words, but it also helps with memorizing Latin vocabulary, Mathisen said.

“Since you’re already associating the activities of the pictures with Latin, it just brings you one step closer to memorizing the words,” she said. “Oculus teaches which words and phrases you should use when you want to describe a particular activity.”

Along with her teaching technique, Batarseh has changed the number of desks in her room due to the large class size.

“In past years, half the classroom would be for playing games, and the other half would have desks,” Batarseh said. “Now there is limited free space in the class since I had to add so many chairs.”

—By Katia Dahmani

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