In his 21 years of teaching Latin at New Canaan High School, Dave Harvey has never had a regular level class beat the national average on the National Latin Exam.
This year, Harvey’s Latin II class of 23 underclassmen scored 5.2 percent above the national average which is a 26 out of 40 or a 65 percent.
“All Latin students in New Canaan Public Schools take the exam starting in at least seventh grade and it progresses in difficulty from year to year,” Harvey said from amid fiesta-style decorations and a Mexican food feast in his classroom, Room 114, during a party to mark the achievement.
As Harvey pared his class for the exam over a 12-week period, he proposed a challenge: if the students’ average is above the national average, then he would throw his class a party.
“One of the reasons for the challenge this year is that we had to learn a number of extra verb tenses and we had to learn the active and passive voice,” Harvey said. “The transition to active and passive voice is a big struggle at this level.”
The test is composed of 40 questions to be answered in 40 minutes, which “requires the ability to process information pretty quickly,” Harvey said.
Overall, the Latin program in NCHS, both regular and honors, took 15 percent of the state’s “gold medals” for the exam.
According to Harvey, previous students’ test scores are typically “about 10 percent below the national average, and the honors sections score at or slightly above it.
For freshman William Clemens, the exam was fair.
“There were certain questions that tripped me up, but I could answer more than half of the questions pretty easily,” Clemens said.
Harvey said that teaching his Latin II class feels like teaching an honors class.
“They have an interesting ability to concentrate for a shorter period of time, but concentrate really hard, which is one of the reasons why they have been able to retain the knowledge and apply it,” Harvey said.
Asked what she enjoys about Latin, freshman Lauren Ozimeck said, “I was really interested in the culture, and I wanted to know what it was about.”
Luke Pelli had more personal reasons for picking up the “dead language.”
“The main reason I take this class is Mr.Harvey,” he said.