Photo by Adam Akins

Latin and history teacher James Comer enjoys tabletop games, birdwatching

Latin and U.S. history teacher James Comer had anything but a relaxing move from El Paso, Texas, to Sacramento, Calif., this summer.

The moving company that Comer hired lost many of his boxes and his bike.

“It was terrible. It didn’t work well at all,” Comer said.

However, once in Sacramento, Comer’s luck turned around, allowing for a smooth transition into the Country Day community. He is teaching U.S. history and all levels of high school Latin.

“I enjoy working with different levels because it’s not the same thing five times a day,” he said.

When he was a high schooler, Comer took French, only shifting to Latin in college and graduate school.

“Latin was just something I took for fun,” he said.

Consequently, becoming a Latin teacher was somewhat unexpected for him. It wasn’t until some of his former students asked him to teach them Latin that he decided to take  on the challenge.

In addition to Latin, Comer has a strong interest in medieval church history. He earned two degrees in the study: a Bachelor of Arts from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Master of Arts from Arizona State University. So, it comes as no surprise that he decided to teach history.

“Part of my background in Latin has been reading and translating documents,” he said. “I translated documents for my master’s degree.”

In 1989, he worked on documents that surrounded a monastery in Great Britain. There, he worked with a charity called Canterbury Archeological Trust.

“I went over there and worked for several weeks,” he said. “They were doing an archaeological dig, and I was working with them there on the dig, and so I got my hands into it.”

Comer wrote his master’s thesis on the experience.

Besides teaching Latin and U.S. history, Comer dabbles in other activities, one being tabletop games.

He stocked his classroom with several of his favorite games, including Dungeons and Dragons, Pyramids and Fluxx. With these and others, he has started a tabletop game club at Country Day.

When not playing tabletop games, Comer can be found birdwatching. He finds it especially interesting that birds are the surviving dinosaurs.

“That fascinated me that dinosaurs haven’t died out. They’re still here,” he said.

The avocet, with its long neck and upturned bill, takes its place as Comer’s favorite bird that he’s seen. “They are the symbol of a couple of birdwatcher groups,” he said.

When Comer rode his bike to Country Day on the first day of school, he saw a beautiful flock of birds on a levee in Sacramento.

He had never seen that particular bird before, but he later discovered that they were yellow-eyed  magpies, a beautiful species with black, white, blue-green and yellow feathers.

“I was thrilled!” Comer  said.

Comer had lived in Rocklin, Yuba City and Hesperia over a nine year period during the early 2000s, and he is glad to have returned to California.

“California, of course, is a beautiful place,” he said.  “It is the most beautiful place I’ve ever had the chance to live in.”

— By Ava Eberhart

Originally published in the Sept. 28 edition of The Octagon

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