By Julia Harris, Staff Reporter Volunteering in Thailand may not be a common pathway to teaching Latin in Pennsylvania, but that’s exactly what happened for Kirsten Whitaker. It was 2002, a year after she completed her studies at the College of the Holy Cross, when Whitaker received the unexpected job offer from Conestoga. “When I...
By Julia Harris, Staff Reporter
Volunteering in Thailand may not be a common pathway to teaching Latin in Pennsylvania, but that’s exactly what happened for Kirsten Whitaker. It was 2002, a year after she completed her studies at the College of the Holy Cross, when Whitaker received the unexpected job offer from Conestoga.
“When I returned (from Thailand) I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do,” Whitaker said. “So, I thought I’d take a year to just work and apply to law school. A job was advertised for a Latin teacher, and I ended up applying for it even though I hadn’t studied education yet. And that was the beginning.”
Whitaker spent the year in Thailand teaching English, which is one correlation to her career today. However, the trip left another long-lasting impact on Whitaker’s life: a love of traveling.
“I got the chance to travel all over Southeast Asia, which was amazing. It’s not anything that I do now in terms of the subject that I teach, but it really did give me the opportunity to see a whole different world and influence me to be open to new experiences,” Whitaker said.
Now, whenever the opportunity presents itself, Whitaker is eager to fly off to different countries and experience new cultures. Additionally, her study of Classics in college fostered an interest in ancient ways of life.
“I’ve traveled to some really interesting places during the summer that one wouldn’t traditionally think are part of Rome, but if you look at the map, the Roman Empire was huge,” Whitaker said. “So, I’ve been able to see Roman Ruins in Turkey, Jordan, and Tunisia, in addition to going to Italy many times.”
Along with traveling, some of Whitaker’s other hobbies include CrossFit, gardening, reading, and going to the beach. She is passionate about the environment and focuses on planting native plants with the intention of attracting pollinators and insects. She also enjoys quality time with her family outside of school, especially her nieces and nephews.
All of these interests, however, do not take away from Whitaker’s love for the Latin language and teaching. Her experience began in high school, because every student had to take both Latin and a modern language.
“I love teaching Latin. I think Latin has made an indelible influence on so many parts of our life that we’re not even really aware of. I like Latin, specifically, because it combines all the things I liked studying in school: the history, literature, linguistics, grammar and mythology. It’s all rolled together,” Whitaker said.
Whitaker acknowledges that many students shy away from Latin because they do not believe it will be as useful to them in today’s society as more modern languages. Whitaker’s knowledge of the many connections between Latin and present day says otherwise.
“I always tell people Latin is not dead,” Whitaker said. “A lot of people say it’s a dead language, and to that I say, ‘it’s immortal.’”
Julia Harris can be reached at [email protected]
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