Maureen Lamb’s love of the classics started while she was still teething. Rather than read her Pat the Bunny or Dr. Seuss bedtime stories, Lamb’s parents served her a culturally rich diet of Greek mythology to nod off to. She believes the classic stories still resonate today because they deal with the human condition. “The beauty of these stories,” she said, “is that it’s important to understand that people were feeling and understanding the world in a similar way years ago as we are today. It’s the timeless question: 'What is it like to be a human being?'" She believes that, by studying these works, one is creating a communication with people who lived thousands of years ago. “Language teaches empathy,” she said.
Lamb’s favorite myth is the tale of Odysseus and the Cyclops, where Odysseus uses his brain to outwit the giant. “The story makes you realize that you don’t always need to be the biggest and the strongest to succeed,” she said. “Although she appreciates any reading of the classics, she believes it’s best to read the stories in the original language. “You always want to read the original,” she said. “It would be like reading a translation of Shakespeare. It loses something in the translation.”
Lamb weaves a rich tapestry of culture and commentary into her classes so that the language comes alive. She contends that, if the classes are imbued with context, students don’t need to be overwhelmed with declension charts. She engages the students with as much interesting, compelling and rich material as possible so that her students truly remember the language and its culture. “My class is not my grandmother’s amo, amas, amat,” she said.
It’s easy to see why she was named Connecticut Language Teacher of the Year in 2017.
“I love working with students and see the light bulbs when they get something,” she said.” It’s incredibly satisfying to see them gain confidence and skills.” Lamb allows her students choice in deciding whether to read more profiles or accounts of history and battles. The class is currently reading the commentaries of Julius Caesar and they are discovering what is true for today was true for times past. “These early writers were fabricating stories, taking a rumor and running with it,” she said. “I have the students read critically to question the author and to not believe everything they are reading. Spinning a message is prevalent throughout human history.”