And You Wonder Why I'm Still Working

Originally posted on December 5, 2018, by Dr. Laurie Duesing, Upper School Latin III teacher

I am seasoned teacher. My first instructional position was teaching English in a high school in California’s Central Valley. For the following thirty years (and several more), I was a full-time member of a community college Humanities Division, teaching composition, literature and creative writing. After finishing my PhD, I did a postdoc teaching year at UC Davis. When I moved to Louisville in 2006, I enrolled in the Classical Languages Program at U of L, pursuing an avid interest in studying Latin. In my 2nd year at U of L, I began tutoring Latin in the Reach Program. Shortly thereafter, I was hired to teach a single Latin class at Louisville Classical Academy at its former Highway 42 campus. Eventually, U of L hired me to teach Beginning Latin on a part-time basis, which I did for seven years.

Now, I am again teaching at Louisville Classical Academy. Why? It isn’t money. I have the good fortune to be a recipient of the benefits of the State Teachers Retirement System of California. Admittedly, part of the impetus was the decimation of the Classical Languages Program at U of L. (That program now consists of one faculty member who teaches all the remaining Latin and Greek offerings.) I subsequently contacted Mrs. Proietti and asked to come back as an instructor at the Academy, should there be a class that I might teach. I remain honored and grateful that I am again a staff member.

Here’s why. . . I have never been in another educational setting whose mission I so completely upheld. Louisville Classical Academy’s embrace of “enduring literature and the timeless tools of Latin” speaks not only to my mind, but also to my heart. Its goal of cultivating “intelligent habits of mind” has been my chief purpose in all my teaching over the years. I’ve seen such goals touted by other schools in which I’ve taught. The difference is that it is not vacuous empty rhetoric here: The Academy, as an institution, means it and does it.

There are other perks that stoke my enthusiasm for my work at the Academy. My fellow-instructors have been universally collegial and supportive. Their dedication, intelligence, and impressive competence make me proud to be a faculty member. For example, Dr. Reed offered to guest lecture in my Advanced Literature class about her experiences in Nigeria. (We were reading a Nigerian novel, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.) She arrived with props, videos, and engaging commentary which illuminated the novel for the class and the teacher. Recently, I had the opportunity to substitute for Ms. Fairhurst in her Latin class, and her lesson plan was stunningly thorough and exciting. Consequently, I plan to adopt at least two teaching techniques in use with her students. Furthermore, Mrs. Proietti has always been available to me (and helpful) if I have a query or concern about my teaching duties or my students.

While the academic support system at the Academy is imposing, there are other ‘nitty-gritty’ factors which facilitate my ability to do my job. There are supplies! The Xerox machine works! When I taught at U of L in the Modern and Classical Languages Department, the Xerox machine was outdated and quirky. I never counted on it being operative; thus, before my classes, I would swing by the UPS store on Broadway to duplicate my handouts. (Even if the U of L Xerox machine might be in working condition, there might not be a paper supply.) The first day I taught at U of L, I asked the administrative assistant for chalk. Looking dismayed, she went to the supply cabinet and handed me a bunch of white pebbles. (That was the chalk supply!) After that, I carried my own chalk and magic markers to class.  

Furthermore, Bridget Kolb has been the most ideal secretary/ administrative assistant/go-to person I’ve encountered in my professional life. She taught me the ins-and-outs of our Xerox machine and rescued me when I botched efforts at duplication. One day (just one day) when the Xerox machine was inoperative, Mrs. Kolb asked me if I had handouts to duplicate. I did, but told her I could write the material on classroom’s whiteboard. She took my handouts, went to other campus, duplicated my assignments and worksheets and delivered them to my classroom! A couple weeks ago one of the bathroom stalls in the women’s room was locked from the inside. After I mentioned this to Mrs. Kolb, she, with scissors in hand, strode into the bathroom and jimmied the lock free. (At U of L, on the 3rd floor there was one uni-sex bathroom for an entire wing of faculty offices. For some bizarre reason this bathroom became locked from the inside with a dead-bolt. It was three days before it was opened and available for use.)

There have been other benefits. Dr. Reed walked into my classroom and delivered an Academy I.D. card to me. I was slightly short of astonished, remembering that I had tried to secure an I.D. at U of L—but was foiled twice by the fact that the camera was out of film. I taught there seven years with no I.D. One last tribute: a little over year ago during Academy’s winter break, I had a hip-joint replacement. Two weeks later, I was completely ambulatory but not allowed to drive for another three days. Dr. Proietti drove by my home, picked me up and delivered me to the Academy for those three days. I certainly could have arranged other transportation but remain grateful for the chauffeuring (and the engaging conversation in the jeep).

When imagining the duties of a teacher, I believe most people (and concerned parents) think about the competence of a teacher and the ability to convey knowledge to the students. But there is so much more than goes into a teacher’s ability to deliver “the educational goods.” In every educational setting I’ve been in, I’ve worked with good students—sometimes exceptional students. But never in any other setting have I had the boon of such consistently cooperative, capable and energetic students. I have worked under fine administrators, in buildings that were well maintained, with supportive colleagues, and worthy students—but never all four at once. I have all of that here at the Academy, and I consider myself most fortunate.