The Wellington School's Latin program recently won the Hildesheim Vase Award, a statewide honor.

The Wellington School's Latin program recently won the Hildesheim Vase Award, a statewide honor.

The award is presented by the Ohio Classical Conference (OCC), an organization that promotes classical language learning and encourages classical studies at all education levels throughout the state.

Wellington Latin teacher Sue Bonvallet and students accepted the award at the OCC's annual conference in Cleveland Oct. 24-25. Wellington previously won the award in 2002.

The Hildesheim Vase Award is a large reproduction of a Roman vase from the Augustan Age. The original vase was part of a group of 70 silver pieces found in 1868 in Hildesheim, Germany. The original vase disappeared during World War II.

There are three copies of the vase; the third is the trophy presented by the OCC. The OCC's vase is a traveling trophy that is awarded annually for the outstanding classics or Latin program in Ohio. Wellington will have possession of the trophy for one year.

Seniors Teddy Kent and Zach Tugaoen are among 30 upper school students who take Latin. Kent and Tugaoen said they chose to take Latin rather than French or Spanish, the other two languages the school offers, because Latin presented more of a challenge.

"It's a good mix between language and history and culture," Kent said. "It's a good base language if you want to learn other languages in college."

Tugaoen said he enjoys learning about Roman culture and mythologies.

"You get to read a lot of history," he said.

Latin is not only used in medicine and law, but its basis in Roman history provides insights into today's political climate, Bonvallet said.

"There have been a lot of political books that have compared events in Rome to contemporary events," she said.

Bonvallet also noted that Latin phrases such as "e pluribus unum" ("of many, one") are printed on U.S. currency.

"The founding fathers were well-schooled in Latin and Greek," she said.

Bonvallet points out to her students that numerous lessons that are applicable today can be learned from studying Roman history.

"Our country is in a transitional state right now, not unlike the Roman republic," she said. "It's good for people to read literature and letters from 2,000 years ago and see that many things about human beings are the same."

This has been a banner year for Wellington's Latin program. On June 1, Bonvallet was presented with the Merita Award by the American Classical League (ACL), the national organization for classicists. Only a limited number of these awards are given annually in recognition of sustained and distinguished service to the classics profession in general and to ACL in particular.

Bonvallet said she strives to make learning about Roman history and the Latin language fun for students. Eighth-grade students, for example, pick a mythological creature and make "monster hats" representing their selections and wear them in class.

Students also watch movies set in ancient Rome such as the 2000 Oscar-winning epic "Gladiator" and read fiction such as the novel "Pompeii" by Robert Harris.

Tugaoen said he enjoyed reading Virgil's epic poem "Aeneid" last year.

"That's a good thing to carry through college," he said. "Knowing how meticulously crafted that poem is, it was really cool getting to read that."

"Reading something in the original language, you get the nuances," Bonvallet said. "And now they're old enough to get the nuances."

cbournea@thisweeknews.com