Awards and Scholarships

2002 CAMWS Award
for Special Service

Christine Ayers

For the past three years Christine Ayers has devoted significant time, energy, and financial expense to the promotion of Latin in the City of Monmouth, Illinois, and, in particular, toward efforts first to save the Latin program at Monmouth High School, and then to maintain enrollments.

Chris's involvement in Latin began in the summer of 1999 as the Monmouth School Board was contemplating an immediate phase-out of the high school Latin program due to decreasing enrollments and a particularly small prospective Latin I class for the fall. Therefore, the board was planning immediate elimination of Latin I and placement of those already enrolled for the fall in another language. Chris Ayers' daughter was one of these incoming freshman who hoped to take Latin.  Chris made it a personal cause to rouse community support for the Latin program.  She sent members of the School Board a variety of Latin promotional materials, met with the superintendent and high school principal, and attended meetings of the School Board. She was successful in obtaining a reprieve for Latin:  instead of canceling Latin I for the fall, the school board agreed to allow Latin to be offered to a class of six (instead of the official minimum of ten) and put the program on probation, with the understanding that the program would be eliminated if ten students did not enroll in Latin for the following school year (2000-2001).

Chris took this as a personal challenge. She organized monthly meetings for parents and teachers interested in saving Latin.  Over the course of several months, and under Chris' stubborn guidance, the group decided upon a number of activities:  1.) letters to eighth graders encouraging them to take Latin; 2.) educational programs on the Classics for grade and high school students; and, in particular, 3.) a Classics Bee modeled on highly successful spelling and geography bees already held in the school district.

Chris herself found a variety of funding sources (including a CPL grant) to bring a Latin persona performance to the High School and, more importantly, to the Junior High, in the spring of 2000, just before the time for registration at the high school.  She even made sure that the local parochial school was able to bring its students to one of the performances.

Chris got a lot of people involved in these efforts. High school Latin students wrote the letter to send to eighth graders. They wrote the questions for the Classics Bee and served as questioners and hosts at the Bee. The professor of Classics at the local college prepared a qualifying test for the Bee.  But it was Chris Ayers who addressed and mailed all the letters, who delicately negotiated with reluctant administrators and teachers in six different schools to allow the 5-8 grade students to take the qualifying test in class, who prepared ribbons for participants, who notified the local media, etc. The 2000 Classics Bee was such a great success that teachers were already talking about the next bee as they were  leaving the first one.  Even more importantly, 22 students registered for Latin for the following year and the Board of Education no longer considered elimination of the program.

Chris did not rest on her laurels. She has continued to support the high school Latin program in subsequent years.  She has made sure that the Classics Bee has been held again in 2001 and 2002, with equal success.  She has made sure that the recruiting letter has gone out. She has helped organize additional programming, including Legio XIIII in 2001 and again in 2002.  During the present academic year, twenty-five students are enrolled in Latin I and more than twenty in Latin II.

The Latin students at Monmouth High School are not the only ones who have benefited from Chris' energy and devotion. Thanks to Chris, even those hundreds of students who have not taken Latin have still had positive experiences with Classical culture by attending persona or Legio XIIII performance or participating in the Classics Bee. If anyone is a selfless friend of Latin and the Classics, it is Chris Ayers and she is most deserving of recognition by the Classical Association of the Middle West and South.



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