Pam Brown is the kind of teacher all parents want their children to have.
Strict but fair, challenging yet supportive, compassionate toward her students and passionate about her subject, Brown has earned generations of admirers in her 38 years at Grant High School.
She's also the main reason that Grant, along with only two other public schools in the state, still offers Latin.
In the 1970s, as area schools dropped Latin from their schedules, Brown built a reputation and developed a following, ensuring the survival of the program. She also recruited students through her course on Greco-Roman civilization.
"I used that class as a platform to promote Latin. It was a political tool," says the 61-year-old Brown, who won a Portland Schools Foundation Excellence in Education award in 2004.
Former student Elise Schumock, who graduated in 1996, recalls, "My sister, who is two grades above me, said that Mrs. Brown was someone not to be missed."
Brown so inspired Schumock that she went on to study classics at Whitman College and now teaches Latin and Greek at a private school in California.
Current sophomore Annie Kersting is equally enthusiastic.
"Mrs. Brown is great because she is so polite and respectful. She puts a lot of trust in her students. She has these standards, and everyone lives up to them."
Brown officially retired in 1999 but has taught half time since. Last winter, when she said she would step down at the end of the year, it looked like the death of Latin at Grant.
Kersting, other students and their parents, pleaded with principal Toni Hunter to continue the program. In the end they won.
"I love Latin," says Hunter. "It's nice to have as an elective, but I don't want people to think that because I didn't cut it this year it will survive forever."
Why study Latin, anyway?
Schumock says it's more about methodology than content. "It's deeply analytical, memorizing exactly what the structures are and breaking the language down into its components. It strengthens these different physical structures in the brain."
Brown says students sign up for Latin to boost their SAT scores or because they aren't sure which "living" language to study or because they're interested in professions such as law or medicine that use Latin phrases.
While the principal interviews candidates for a half-time Latin teaching position, Brown is making plans to travel, study Spanish and spend time with other retired Grant colleagues.
But clearly, she will be missed.
"She taught us," Schumock says, "how to be human beings in the world."