Graduate teaching assistant
Master of Arts in Classics and Classical Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics, University of Kansas, 2022
Classical Studies Post-Baccalaureate Program, University of Pennsylvania, 2020
Bachelor of Arts in Classics and Classical Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics, University of Pennsylvania, 2018
"I love teaching languages," says Sam Wert (Classical Studies `20). "I love chatting with students about Greek and Roman history, and using ancient texts to help people learn real-world, applicable skills. And I'm someone who naturally enjoys public speaking and engaging with an audience, so teaching is a fun experience." Sam teaches as a graduate student at the University of Kansas (KU) and notes that he first encountered some of his preferred pedagogical practices in Penn's Classical Studies Post-Baccalaureate Program. "They made classics a more social experience, a more communal experience," he reflects. "I learned so much about how to teach in that program."
Sam had previously discovered his interest in classics as an undergraduate at Penn. "Classics is such a broad field, I felt that I could explore any kind of interests I had within the field itself," he explains. "I really enjoy writing and learning languages—and I could engage not only with language and literature, but art and art history. Classics encompasses all the things I'm really interested in." Sam took a year off after graduating college, and felt that post-baccalaureate language instruction would help set him up for success in future graduate studies. "I wanted to wade back into Latin and Greek," he says. "When I came back to Penn, I was so comfortable being on campus and I knew all the faculty—it was a good transition, and a good way to jump in."
In the classroom, Sam and his peers worked together to translate ancient Latin and Greek, often pairing up and talking through different interpretations of the texts—the communal strategy he plans to put to work in his own classroom. "That experience of teaching and learning from one another was fun and engaging and very effective," he says. "The cohort experience was awesome because there was a nice group of students who were in the exact same place I was: wanting to brush up on our languages, applying to grad school, all doing the same thing." Sam's student cohort not only read Latin and Greek together but attended colloquia to explore topics in their field, and sat down with professors and other graduate students to talk about career and grad school opportunities. It was one such informal opportunity that introduced Sam to the prestigious classics program at Kansas University, where he applied and was accepted. "The master's degree at KU allows me to actually teach and also take graduate classes," says Sam. "It is a nice stepping stone that gives me time to figure out whether I want to do a PhD after."
Sam hasn't ruled out the possibility of continuing his classical studies education with a doctoral degree, but he can also see himself in a high school classroom—at least for a few years. For now, he enjoys introducing his undergraduate students to the timeless lessons of ancient texts. "KU does a fantastic job of making all of their classes accessible and directly applicable to the real world. The class that I'm teaching now is on public speaking, using Cicero to help students construct speeches and think about speechmaking and delivery," he says. He is also exploring Cicero's legendary Latin oratory skills as the subject of his master's thesis, examining the Roman statesman's courtroom speeches and jury addresses—a level of literary analysis he began cultivating in his post-baccalaureate studies program. "The Classical Studies program taught me what I need to be doing in these high-level graduate courses: how to approach a text, how to study it from a scholarly perspective," says Sam.
"The Classical Studies program was one of the best experiences I had at Penn," he concludes. He advises post-baccalaureate Classical Studies students to make the most of their time at Penn and trust in the structure of the program. "Don't be too worried about where your language skills are," says Sam. "Your professors have your best interests at heart, and they will help get you where you need to go."