A native Ann Arbor, Mich., Justin Redpath is a first-year teacher at George Washington Middle School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Classics and Linguistics from the University of Malta, then moved to Baltimore to work for a nonprofit organization known as HERO, which helps people living with HIV and AIDS. He moved to the Washington metropolitan area in 2001 to be a document manager for a defense contractor known as Synergy. He has a master’s degree in Latin from the University of Maryland, and he is working on another master’s degree in Education from George Washington University. He currently teaches Latin at George Washington Middle School.
<b>Why did you choose to go into teaching?</b>
It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. My first choice, when I was very young, was to be a teacher. So my job with the defense contractor was just a placeholder to figure out how I would go to school and what I would do. Teaching was always my ultimate goal. For me, it’s not about the money. So when this opportunity came up, I grabbed it.
<b>We’re now a few weeks into the school year. How’s it going?</b>
It’s going fantastically. The kids are wonderful, and I really feel like the program at George Washington University really prepared me for everything from being able to create lesson create lesson plans to manage classroom behavior. Another big thing is being able to reach out to every student instead of having a static plan for all students. I’m really relishing the training I got at G.W. It’s the backbone of what I’m doing now.
<b>Does the middle school have a rigorous curriculum?</b>
Our principal and all of our vice principals and curriculum specialists have all been pushing for a much more rigorous curriculum. Some students get what I’m teaching right away. But then I have to readdress those issues for the ones who don’t get it right away. They lose interest if they get bored, so it’s the aim of all the teachers here to present the lessons to the students so that they are engaged all the time and relating to their own lives.
<b>Is Latin a dead language?</b>
I’m trying to revive it. In my class, we speak Latin. Think about Hebrew. It was a dead language, but now it’s spoken in Israel and in the United States. If nobody spoke English, it would be a dead language too. There are many venues in which people have the chance to speak Latin conversationally, so — personally — I don’t think Latin’s a dead language. And I’m trying to get my students to think of it that way.
<b>Why Latin important?</b>
A lot of modern literary styles are based in Latin, and 65 percent of English vocabulary comes from Latin. Our system of government is based on this culture. Plus, it’s just so cool. It really informs your viewpoint of the modern world. I find the Greeks and Romans fascinating, and I tried to express that to my students.
<b>What is your favorite movie?</b>
"Raise the Red Latin," which is a Chinese movie with subtitles. It takes place in the early 20th century, and it features a young woman who becomes the fourth concurrent wife of a landowner instead of going to university. So it’s about her going into this new world, trying to figure out the politics of living with the three other wives.
<b>What is the best book you’ve read in the last year?</b>
"Are We Rome?" by Cullen Murphy. It’s a very colloquial read, and it deals with comparisons between the modern United States and ancient Rome. He compares the physical layout of the capital, the government structures and the leaders. The point of the book is not to be judgmental but to make comparisons.
<b>What are your interests and hobbies?</b>
Reading, swimming and being outside. Reading Latin, of course. I also love cooking.
<b>What concerns do you have about the community?</b>
The community seems to be pretty close-knit and very supportive. Like any other city, there are disparities between the rich and the poor. But, as far as I can see, everybody is working together. In my classes, I have all kinds of races and ability levels so I don’t think I have any concerns about this community.