Welcoming new Classical Greek & Latin Teacher: Adam Williams


Karen Lin

Mr. Williams, a new member of the Classical Language department.

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After mid-winter break, the Classical Languages department at Townsend Harris High School welcomed Adam Williams as a new teacher. Filling in for Greek and Latin teacher George Hagerty after he left for a six-month sabbatical, Mr. Williams will be teaching four Latin classes and one Greek class for the rest of the year.

Following Mr. Hagerty’s break to pursue his Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) after the Fall semester, several junior year classical language classes were left without a permanent substitute until March 6. As the National Latin Exam (NLE) and National Greek Exam (NGE) drew closer, the need for a new teacher became a major priority.

Mr. Williams discovered the job opening at THHS on Facebook, after returning from a four year teaching hiatus since the onslaught of the pandemic.

At Ohio State University, Mr. Williams majored in classical languages, and likened his return to feeling like a “speck in the crowd.” Although the size of THHS was a new teaching experience, Mr. Williams was impressed with the “friendliness, hospitality, and seriousness” of the students here.

While the hiring was sudden, Mr. Williams had been in a similar position after finishing his major. “I was thinking about staying another year to finish a double major in comparative literature, but I ended up hearing from an old teacher who had hired me in high school. He had moved to Texas, and [said], Are you finished with school? Because I’m retiring and we’re going to need a [new] teacher.’ So, I decided to apply and two weeks later, I was driving this tiny car to Texas to start teaching.” He has also taught in Virginia and Florida.

Preceding the pandemic, Mr. Williams had wanted to take a break from teaching, and moved to New York with his family. However, after the pandemic threw everything off course, he said, “I’m really just trying to get back into a teaching position where I will be able to stay at [for a] while.”

When asked about his goals for the remainder of the semester, Mr. Williams said, “Well, at the moment, the national [Greek and Latin] exams are coming up, so I’m really, really intent on getting my students as prepared as possible. I’ve only been here for a week and a half, so it’s kind of cram time, but I want to be the best resource I can for students because I know those exams mean a lot to them.”

Junior Gabriella Renzi from Mr. William’s Classical Greek class said, “Mr. Williams made the class feel very welcoming and has taught us a lot already.”

Junior Isabelle Chen, one of Mr. William’s current Latin students said, “[At first] I felt anxious and with [Mr. Hagerty] leaving on such a short notice, I was scared that he wouldn’t have left any material for us, and it would be hard to prepare for such a big exam… [However, it is better] than having a random substitute since he is making his best effort to prepare us for the NLE which he only has a few weeks to do.”

Junior Mia Esquivel said, “Mr. Williams seems very passionate about teaching us what we need to know for the NLE and is working very hard to prepare us for the test.”

After the NLE and NGE, Mr. Williams hopes to prepare his Latin students for AP Latin. “AP classes by themselves are already challenging and have a lot of material, so I don’t want to make it even harder because [they’re already] behind,” he said.

Mr. Williams described Townsend Harris as “complex,” different from the independent schools he previously taught at with smaller class sizes.

Other than preparing for what’s coming next year, Mr. Williams said, “assuming I do stay here longer, I’d really like to build the Latin League into a very active Classics club that includes not just Latin students but Greek students as well, since [it] brings the subject alive more than can be done in the classroom.”