Combining the history and speech of ancient Rome, Monmouth-Roseville High School Latin teacher Brian Tibbets uses a dead language to bring life back to the classroom.
While the Latin classes focus primarily around the language itself, Tibbets also focuses on culture, history and the mythology of Rome to help give students an understanding of the language. Tibbets, who has been teaching Latin at the high school for five years, also involves architecture, gladiator fights and a Roman forum project in his upper-level courses.
"I'm always finding new activities to do with students," Tibbets said. "At the end of every unit or at the end of every chapter I'm thinking about what worked and what didn't."
"I don't think any foreign language teacher would say they just do the language," Tibbets said.
His approach to teaching is what several of his students say ranks him as one of their favorite teachers.
"He's very energetic," said freshman Shanae Glasgow, who was given the Latin word for queen, "Regina" as her name in class. "He just doesn't give you a book or words to learn from."
By not building his classroom around lectures, Tibbets uses gladiator action figures and the game Slapboard - a game where students see who can give the definition of a word and slap the chalkboard with an eraser first - to help keep students interested.
"Sometimes he kicks our desk when we're sleeping to wake us up," said freshman Drake Stevens, or king of the monkey "Simius Rex."
But it is also his accessibility that his students appreciate. He makes himself available at all times, and allows them to get extra help whenever they need it. Making sure students understand the curriculum, whether it's on the first or third time, is what drives him. He said he is always looking for feedback from his students, and that he tries to stay sensitive to how they perceive his teaching.
"That, to me, never gets old," Tibbets said. "Because that moment of learning, whenever it happens, is what I'm looking for...and I'll do it until that moment happens.
"That 'ah-ha' moment, when students get that, that's why I do it." He said.
According to Tibbets and Principal Jeff Bryan, Monmouth-Roseville High is the smallest high school in Illinois, in terms of enrollment, that offers a Latin program.
With a major in classic languages, centering around Latin and Greek, Tibbets an interest in mythology and the root of words as a reason for the desire for the class.
"Latin is the basis for all languages," said Stevens. "It will help with the future, and I'd rather be doing this for my career."
Stevens said he hopes to work in the biology field after attending college.
Yet even with a small enrollment, Bryan said the school finds themselves screening possible candidates for the class as opposed to turning them away.
"We ask the junior high to make recommendations," Bryan said. "Then we'll make evaluations on their grades. Some students probably didn't get Latin because they didn't have the skills while a freshman in high school."
Bryan did say sophomores have been able to begin the program if they show the maturity needed for the upper-level course.
"On a practical level, Latin helps improve ACT scores and SAT scores," Tibbets said. "It helps students understand grammar, and their understanding of English always gets stronger because they're always picking up on nouns, verbs and parts of speech."