The American Classical League is delighted to give the inaugural Charles Humphreys Award for Innovative Pedagogy to Kevin Ballestrini. In the words of his nominator, “Wherever the field of Classics is progressing and advancing beyond its traditional boundaries, Kevin is leading the conversation.” As the founder and principal manager of The Pericles Groups, LLC, he has created resources for game-based courses and curricula, including Operation LAPIS, VERBA, and CARD-tamen, that engage students in real-life encounters with the Latin language and the world of the Romans. His site also hosts Project Arkhaia, a collection of tiered readings for the entire AP Latin syllabus, which he helped write. As his nominator says, “Wherever Kevin has seen a need for a teaching resource to exist, he has taken it upon himself to create it.” Latin educators across the country credit the materials Kevin has produced and provided—many of them for free—with helping them make their own classrooms more innovative and inclusive and advancing Classical pedagogy for all of us.
Kevin earned his B.A. in Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies from the University of Connecticut, Storrs, and his M.A. in Classics from the University of Colorado, Boulder. He currently teaches Latin and ESL at Mansfield Middle School in Storrs, Connecticut, and serves as a teacher leader in his school and district. His principal describes him as “a dynamic and innovative educator in every sense of the word” who “engages students in authentic experiences that place students at the center of their learning.” His passion for innovation has inspired his colleagues to rethink their instruction and assessment practices, leading to increased student engagement and greater focus on language acquisition.
Kevin is professionally active on a national level, giving presentations at countless meetings of ACL, ACTFL, and CANE, among others, and co-writing articles for publication in the Journal of Classics Teaching, The Language Educator, and others. Through his presentations and publications, he has advanced the conversation about how and why we teach Classical languages, with a tireless commitment to keeping Classics relevant, alive, and accessible for generations to come. He served on the 13-member committee to revise and rewrite the national standards for Classical languages to better align with the ACTFL World Readiness Standards. He also serves the profession through leadership roles in CANE, the Classical Association of Connecticut, and the ACL Governance Committee, and through his work as an early writer and now project leader for ALIRA (the ACTFL Latin Interpretive Reading Assessment).
Kevin embodies the qualities this award seeks to recognize, namely innovative teaching for his own students combined with a commitment to sharing his innovations with the larger profession. Through this award, we express our admiration and gratitude to Kevin for his impact on the teaching of Classical languages in the 21st century, and our anticipation of what he will do next. Congratulations, Kevin Ballestrini!
The Charles Humphreys Award for Innovative Pedagogy
The American Classical League has established this award in memory of Charles Humphreys to recognize excellence in teaching Classics and Classical Languages. Nominees should exemplify those qualities which Charles himself brought to teaching and the profession, namely a “sparkling enthusiasm for scholarship, education, and the Humanities,” which lead to innovative teaching practices (in the classroom or delivered through other means), including interdisciplinary instruction and authentic, real life learning opportunities for all students. Furthermore, the nominee should show evidence of how he/she has influenced our profession by sharing and disseminating innovative practices for other teachers.
This award for innovative teaching is named for Charles Humphreys, 50+ year member of American Classical League, and teacher of Latin in high school and junior college in Ridgecrest, California for 54 years. Charles brought more than linguistic talents to the classroom, whether he was teaching Latin or Russian.
While a young man finishing high school in Los Angeles and starting college at the University of Oregon, Charles was also a dancer and featured extra in the movies, during the age of the great movie musicals. He attended the university on a music scholarship in undergraduate school, and then returned to major in languages for his master’s degree. In addition, he performed as a musician, both in the army band, as well as up to the time of his passing with various orchestras and bands.
His love of the arts transferred into his language teaching. Whether he was working with language, literature, history, or culture he found ways to blend in the arts. This further blossomed as he also took students to NJCL conventions, and on overseas trips. His goal was to make the language class live and relatable for all students. When he formally retired from the classroom, he continued to teach student groups privately in his home. Both groups were reading Greek myths, with the Russian students translating the stories from Russian into English! A former student said: “His sparkling enthusiasm for scholarship, education, and the Humanities inspired my life and career, starting with Charles as my first Latin teacher at Burroughs High, up to my current job teaching Latin at the Correctional Institution in Tehachapi, CA. I remain ever grateful to him for his ongoing vision and support.”
This award will acknowledge exceptional achievements in the classroom, such as Charles Humphreys’ own exemplary work, by which our discipline will be passed on to the next generation.