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Riverhead’s Latin program thriving once again under teacher Aidan Walsh

Aidan Walsh knew in high school that he wanted to teach Latin when he saw that his own teachers in Irvington, N.Y., could pass along their passion for the subject to their students.

“I saw my Latin teachers in high school be able to communicate this level of enthusiasm for the subject that they loved,” Mr. Walsh said. “I sort of figured out that that was something I wanted to do. As I went through my education, I sort of slowly realized that the middle school, high school level was where I wanted to be, where I felt like I could best continue that tradition of Latin study.”

Mr. Walsh has been teaching various levels of Latin in Riverhead’s lauded program for a year now and said the district has been a great place to work.

“All my kids are great, there’s so many different personalities in my Latin students,” he said. “These are a really motivated group of kids, a really curious group of kids, and so they’re really kind of the ideal group for a teacher.”

Mr. Walsh has revamped and updated the Latin curriculum with new textbooks and materials for students enrolled in the program.

“I have students at pretty much every level of Latin now,” he said. “Right now, my sights are mainly just on expanding the program … in terms of increasing my class sizes now, rather than increasing the number of classes.”

Mr. Walsh is currently teaches four Latin classes at four different levels and one elective on ancient Greek culture that’s more of a history/mythology course.

His Latin I class is all seventh-graders, while his Latin II course has  a mix of freshman, sophomores and juniors.

Mr. Walsh has a master’s degree in New Testament/ early Christianity from the University of Chicago as well as an advanced certificate in teaching Latin. He also has a bachelor’s degree in classic and classical languages, literature and linguistics from CUNY/Hunter College.

The program is considered a tradition for many Riverhead students, and alumni have credited it with providing a solid educational foundation.

The program faced a bumpy road once longtime teacher Jeff “Doc” Greenberger announced his retirement at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year. His wife, Lorene Custer, retired as well at the beginning of the following school years. Dr. Greenberger had taught in the high school and Ms. Custer in the middle school. At that point, Latin’s future in Riverhead was uncertain. 

The district did hire another teacher, but that person resigned just as the 2020-21 school year was set to begin. The district instead offered an online course through Sterling Academy, which provides electives in digital arts, foreign languages, engineering and more for grades 6-12.

Today, Mr. Walsh continues with his goal of making Latin accessible to as many students as possible.

“Unfortunately, Latin can have kind of like this elitist reputation,” Mr. Walsh said. “I want students who are thinking about Latin to be aware that this is a class that they can take, that they can succeed in— and that they will learn a lot about things that I think they’ll be very curious about.”