The Department is proud to announce the 2020 recipient of the Glenn M. Knudsvig Award for Outstanding Latin Teaching in Michigan Secondary Schools is Mr. Erich Heiden from Divine Child High School in Dearborn, Michigan.
Erich Heiden is a proud alumnus of the University of Michigan with a B.A. in Latin (2011) and a Latin M. A. with Teaching Certification (2014). He found a passion for teaching Latin with the help of many U of M faculty and friends, and took a job at Divine Child High School out of the M.A. program, where he's taught six years of all levels of Latin. The curriculum he's designed takes students on a journey through the Trojan War, Early Rome, History of the Republic, and into Roman literature by Latin 2 second semester. They grapple with Stoicism and Epicureanism through Catullus and Cicero. They analyze a fragile government and society with Cicero's letters and selections of In Catilinam, moving then to selections of Horace, hand-picked to encourage anxious students of modern America to learn to be happy in a productive way. Then after studying the character of Caesar as a leader, they explore the many ways Aeneas' identity changes and shifts like Rome itself, inviting them to ask questions about their own identities. Erich created this curriculum in an effort to use Classics as a vehicle for virtuous life lessons, attempting to, as a good friend and mentor says, "not teach a language, but teach students." Creating this curriculum while maintaining a rigorous grammar-translation approach, and requiring students to read, translate, and understand texts in the original Latin has been both a great challenge and a great source of pride. On a personal note, Erich lives in Dearborn with his wife, Giulia, and two children, Domenico and Sofia, who are his pride and joy.
Mr. Heiden was nominated by Cameron Keuning, a 2020 graduate of the UM School of Education who was assigned as a student teacher with Mr. Heiden during the 2019-20 academic year. In his nomination he states:
Over the past year, I have had the pleasure to observe and learn from Mr. Heiden as a student teacher in his Latin classroom. He demonstrated daily what it means to be a teacher of students, rather than a teacher of Latin. His primary concern is not with the transmission of Latin knowledge, but that his students learn what it means to be ethical global citizens; nevertheless, Mr. Heiden still runs a strong and highly successful Latin program. By the time his students graduate, they have read a wide variety of Latin literature, including the Vulgate, Catullus, Cicero (both philosophy and oratory), Horace, Caesar, and Vergil, discussing these works not only for their grammar and translation, but also for their deeper moral message. Mr. Heiden has developed his curriculum in such a way that the meanings of these texts are meant to inform the development of each of his students as people, not just be a vessel for learning the language.
James Utley, (Divine Child ‘19, University of Michigan ‘23), a former student of Mr. Heiden, can testify to his ability to educate and ignite an interest in the Classics:
Mr. Heiden changed the course of my life. I went into high school thinking that I would go to college to be a computer engineer. Instead, I came out with my heart set on the classics, all thanks to Mr. Heiden. He was always coaching me and encouraging me in the classics, whether that was reading my 20th sentence about a dragon or staying late after school to help me with independent translation. Mr. Heiden was always there for me. Not just for me either, Mr. Erich Heiden stayed after school for any student who needed his help with classics, even students not in his classes. Mr. Heiden is so dedicated to the instruction of classics that he goes out of his way to draw students to the classics and make them more accessible to modern students.
The Chair of the Department, Artemis Leontis, says “Erich Heiden's passion for teaching Latin is matched by his pedagogical skill and care for his students. There's a special joy in seeing him with his students. Their connection is direct. What a pleasure to honor this gifted alumnus of UM.” Congratulations Erich!