Longtime West Geauga High School Latin teacher Bill Prueter still considers himself a student.
He reads extensively, he says, to stay humble - because that makes him study new material like his students do - and to stay at least a few steps ahead of his class.
"I heavily encourage my students to ask questions and stump me," Prueter said. "This gives them a feeling of empowerment that they have a part in the direction of the class, and their questions often point out what I do not know, and this spurs more reading on my part."
He has much to show for his efforts in the classroom.
His students trounce competition at annual statewide contests, and he recently won the American Classical League's Dr. Elizabeth Watkins Latin Teacher of the Year Award for 2008. The award, which is offered nationally, was established by Dr. Dwight G. Watkins in memory of his wife, who taught Latin at Oak Hills High School in Cincinnati.
Prueter received $500, which he used to purchase a "very expensive set of books" of commentaries on the letters of Cicero. He said his wife, Sarah, encouraged him to apply for the award.
"As I told the election committee in my letter, I pray that I somehow approach the expectations they have for the quality of teaching the award symbolizes," he said.
The American Classical League was founded in 1919 for the purpose of fostering the study of classical languages in the United States and Canada.
The 58-year-old Chester Township resident has taught the ancient language for 32 years - 26 at West Geauga.
Most people know that Latin roots make up many words in the English language - an English word with three or more syllables has a 90 percent chance of coming from the Latin and/or Greek language, Prueter says.
But he says there are other reasons it remains relevant - for one, the academic discipline it takes to learn Latin.
"My students learn mental agility and the courage to attack the difficult," he said.
Prueter's enthusiasm for the subject continues to spur students' interest in West Geauga's Latin Club, which has nearly 40 members now.
"He's probably one of the most passionate people I've witnessed about the subject area he teaches," high school Principal Dave Toth said.
Prueter also is working on his certification to draw objects in the solar system. Once he attains proficiency, astronomers will use his drawings to document change and surface movement of the major planets.
"I enjoy very much sitting at my telescope observing, and then drawing what I see," he said.