... in Charlottesville. From the Daily Progress:

Unus, duo, tres, quattuor …

The bell rings at 9 a.m. in David “Doc” Larrick’s Room 124 - the same Albemarle High room he has inhabited for 25 years - and he counts out loud in Latin along with his students to see if he has a full class.

When he leaves the room for a few minutes, his Latin I students gush with admiration for a teacher with a Ph.D. in humanities who will retire from the school division in June.

“Someone told me before I decided to take this class that if you haven’t had Doc, you haven’t had the true Albemarle experience,” junior Jason Truwit said.

Unlike many public schools throughout the country, learning Greek and Latin - languages some call “dead” - is part of the AHS experience, and Larrick is the “numerus unus” reason why they are alive and thriving.

All six Latin courses being offered in the fall are full.

“There is no such thing as a dead language in Doc Larrick’s class,” said Spanish teacher Denise Collado, who will take over for Larrick as the head of the world languages department at AHS.

Collado said that as Latin and Greek have become de-emphasized nationwide, Spanish has become the more important and marketable language for students.

“Our society today is very utilitarian,” she said.

How does Larrick keep the classics chic? He engages his students and makes sure they understand how relevant learning the classics can be, Collado said.

“I definitely learned a lot more English grammar here than I have in my three years of English,” said junior Tom Breeden.

The only things dead to Larrick are the rumors that Greek and Latin are becoming extinct.

“I like to dispel the notion that Latin and Greek are ‘dead,’” he said. “Are monuments dead? Is a painting dead? I emphasize that the classical languages we are about to learn are ‘frozen’ in time, like a monument or painting, and are nevertheless as eloquent and expressive as anything that can ever be spoken orally. On the first day of Latin, students leave the room knowing hundreds of words in Latin, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian, all based on English words they already know.”

This may explain why his Latin I class was full of freshmen looking to fulfill their language requirement and juniors looking to lift their SAT verbal scores.

Knowing the classics bolsters vocabulary and literacy, said Larrick, who earned a B.A. in Greek and an M.A. in English literature from the University of Virginia.

“There are all sorts of linguistic keys I share with students to open up a vast knowledge of words,” he said.

In fact, college graduates taking the GRE between 1996 and 1999 who majored in classical languages or classics scored the highest on the verbal section out of the more than 270 majors who were cited.

Larrick’s grandmother exposed him to Greek and Latin early on, and his sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Eavis, ignited his interest in medieval manuscripts and languages.

“I always wanted to be a teacher,” Larrick said. “No other occupation ever occurred to me because I had so many likable, inspiring and challenging teachers throughout my education.”

In his retirement, Larrick plans to work with his partners at DynamicLiteracy.com, a company that produces vocabulary expansion products.


Mary Taylor scripsit:

Let me first begin by saying "Thank you" to Doc David Larrick! My
rising junior had the wonderful opportunity to have and experience
Doc Larrick for two years at AHS. What Doc provided my child may be
more than he has ever done or provided any other student in his many
years of teaching. You see, my child has a learning disability that
impacts language and vocabulary and has caused a significant struggle
with reading comprehension since elementary school. My child has not
been able to comprehend above a 5th grade reading level since the
start of middle school. Not true anymore! In my child's two years
with Doc for Latin I and Latin II my child is now able to read and
comprehend on a high school level! Kudos Doc! In addition, my child
has also closed all gaps in both receptive and expressive
language. What this "very alive" language and the help and guidance
of Doc Larrick provided my child is beyond priceless! Most
importantly Doc never believed that my child did not belong or
couldn't succeed. He provided multiple opportunities for mastery
learning when failure wasn't an option, but mostly he gave my child
the gift of language and lifelong learning. Everyone should have a
teacher that does that! We were fortunate enough to get Doc!
Thank you Doc for what you have done and how you have impacted my
child and the lives and futures of all those you have touched over
your many years of teaching. We wish you the best and will miss you
for Honors Latin III next year!
Our sincere appreciation,
AHS parent and a student that will miss you