Megan Beckman, known as Magistra to her students, is SACS’s Teacher of the Year. It is a just title for the Latin teacher. Beckman teaches Latin courses I and III at Homestead, Summit, and Woodside – a formidable load. This year, she even teaches Latin I and III through ESacs, meaning a complete set of assignments and videos ready for online students each week.
Beckman’s influence, though, extends beyond learning the material; she commits herself to guiding students emotionally and academically.
“Not everyone is going to go on into Latin in college, but everyone can benefit from learning how you learn. I’ve definitely shifted in the last couple of years. Yeah, we do Latin, obviously, but we also make sure that students understand how they can make connections to other classes and how they learn,” Beckman said.
As a Latin student of year IV, I can attest to Magistra Beckman’s methods. Once, she gave a presentation on methods that shift memory retention from short-term to long-term memory. All of this information came from a book she read in her free time.
Moreover, Latin class becomes a sanctuary for students, rather than an arena. Since my first introduction to Latin, in 2016, she has made the course engaging while retaining an environment of peace. I, among other students, do not walk into a Latin room with dread, but with comfort and contentment.
“Whenever I’m struggling with stress or need a simple pick-me-up conversation, Magistra is the first teacher I go to, and I’m so grateful for her support and care,” Lauren Cabe (11) said.
Much of this support comes from the core of Beckman’s teaching philosophy, which emphasizes the student rather than the schoolwork.
“Students often put a lot of pressure on themselves. Yes, school is important, but you’re a person first. You should make choices that honor that, especially this year. If it’s Latin homework or sleep, choose sleep. Yes, its good to have high standards, and I am not lowering my standards [of students.] I think being more understanding and accommodating of students as people; trying to keep in mind there might be a reason you’re not doing homework that has nothing to do with Latin,” said Beckman.
In this way, Latin becomes a collaborative teaching environment; Beckman always supports her students and gives them opportunities to learn and grow from mistakes. As a result, the students engage in the class.
“The games [Beckman] uses and the fun translation content make Latin feel more like a fun learning experience rather than a simple diploma requirement,” Carolyn Chen (11) said.
One of such games includes a gadget worthy of praise: buzzers. Beckman sets up her certamen (a Latin trivia) buzzers before class and allows students to partake in questions. They range from vocabulary and grammar to Roman culture and history. The room fills with vigorous competition while retaining an air of easy-going fun. All of this educational enjoyment comes from Beckman and her commitment to her Latin discupuli (students).
However, Beckman does not stagnate in her current success. She strives to grow as a teacher and cultivate her teaching techniques.
“I’m trying to do more project-based assessments because they’re fun and you guys were all so creative. You can show what you know and have fun with it,” said Beckman.
Other teachers, too, notice her passion and determination.
“I appreciate working with Mrs. Beckman because she’s very flexible, and she’s so tech-savvy. We just work well together and kind of complement each other with what we teach. She is easy to get along with and an advocate for the kids. I’m just so glad to have her here,” said Ellen Waite, teacher of Latin II, IV and V.
Beckman’s greatest attribute, however, is not her ability to con students into caring about Latin, but her commitment to the students, in all spheres.
“Honestly, I think what makes Magistra such a good teacher is just how she cares about us as individuals,” Chen said.
Originally published in the Spartana Issue 8 (May 2021)