After teaching Latin at Herndon High School for the past nine years, Bethany Abelseth is a new addition to the CHS world language department. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Latin and Roman Studies and loves to write Latin poetry in her free time.
Why did you become a teacher?
As a kid, I was one of those weirdos who knew exactly what I wanted to do from the age of 10. This is pretty much my dream job.
Why did you change schools?
Well, I’m still at Herndon High School; I’m just split between both schools. With the chaos of the pandemic, the electives took a hit and Latin is the elective of the electives. I just needed something to fill up my schedule.
You’ve also taught at a secondary school before. What are the major differences between teaching high school and teaching middle school?
Oh, middle schoolers. They are adorable and inquisitive, but they have a really hard time sitting still and a really hard time not talking. You spend a lot more of your energy helping them practice being physically present in a classroom, which makes it harder to do more of the ‘thinky things.’ And that’s why I prefer high school because you guys know how to come in and sit down. You know how to be quiet, it’s just hard, but we’re able to do more of the really ‘thinky things.’
What about Latin do you love so much?
Oh, it’s hard to describe. When I was in high school, I remember this one moment. I was working on my Latin homework right before it was due, like an hour before I had to submit it. And it was really hard and I remember sitting there and staring at it, and suddenly having this lightbulb of like, ‘Oh, I get it.’ And all of a sudden the translation made sense. And the language made sense. And the literature made sense. And it just felt so good, and it felt like home and that feeling just never went away.
Once you get your PHD, what will you use it for?
Just being a happier person. I love learning and I love learning about Latin and Rome. My primary impulse was to do it just because I’m curious. I have questions and I just want to do it because I can.
What about Latin poetry do you enjoy so much?
So, the Latin poetry came from a discussion that I was having with one of my professors in high school about what a poet can and cannot say in Latin. And I disagreed with the professor. And the professor was like, ‘No, you’re wrong,’ because I’m the professor and you’re not and I was like, ‘Well, I’m going to prove it then.’ So that’s why I started writing Latin poetry and it’s fun. It’s a puzzle. It’s a way to express yourself. Poetry is art and art feeds the human soul. So I do it because it makes me happy.