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Felicity Albrecht is a Latin teacher who loves to pass on her knowledge of the ancient classics. She also loves to play the ukulele and learn hula dances – some of which she performs for her devoted students while chanting Latin verbs.

Felicity mentors students at Sacré Cœur including Emma Walling in year 10, who shares a passion for ancient languages and hopes one day to use her knowledge of Latin to help her become a human rights lawyer.

Emma says …

Student Emma Walling. Photo: Michael Rayner
Student Emma Walling. Photo: Michael Rayner

I chose to study Latin for a few reasons. In years 7 and 8 you study Japanese and French and they’re both compulsory, and then in year 9 you have the option of picking up Latin.

I really enjoyed studying Japanese but French wasn’t for me. I’m not really an art or drama kind of girl so, in a way, this is a very utilitarian way of looking at it, but I’d rather do a language than an arts subject.

In year 8 I studied Latin Alive, which was once a fortnight and was part of our enrichment program at Sacré Cœur. We learned the Greek alphabet and you could see very clearly it was a history class as well as being a language.

I love the way when you’re translating Latin it’s not something that’s really immediate like other languages. It requires a lot of hard work and you can put your own personal flair on it. It’s amazing that something that was written thousands of years ago can be so relevant today.

I’m class captain for my year 10 home room and our focus is sustainability as well as general home-room activities like running a birthday roster. We also work on the recycling program, which is a student-run initiative.

We’ve all got a box in our home room for recycling and once every two weeks we rotate through every year level to put the bins out and bring them in again.

I think one of the things that I really love about Ms Albrecht is the way she approaches our subject because it is a very academic subject but sometimes she’ll come in hula dancing and decide we’re going to do a 15-minute meditation and she’ll take us to a log cabin [through meditation].

It’s probably one of my most difficult subjects but it’s the one I enjoy the most as well because I think Ms Albrecht ensures we’re still enjoying the challenge of it. She’s really clever because she works very hard at teaching us to motivate ourselves.

She lets us work in groups a lot so the temptation is always there for us to sit back and talk – which occasionally we might do – but we know if we do that we’ll fall behind, so we just have to keep motivating ourselves.

When I finish school I’d like to be a human rights lawyer and then I’d like to move into politics a bit later on. There’s a course in Canberra that I’d like to do when I finish school called Law PPE – Politics, Philosophy and Economics.

Felicity says …

Latin teacher Felicity Albrecht. Photo: Michael Rayner
Latin teacher Felicity Albrecht. Photo: Michael Rayner

I started here in 2008 teaching Latin and Creative Art Therapy as well as being on the well-being team for four years as a counsellor. It’s a very special place at Sacré Cœur. There is just something special about going to a staff briefing where it isn’t all about pressure and striving – it’s about cherishing individual students.

Latin is a magic kind of subject because it’s intellectual and academic and it allows you to time travel. It’s got three parts to it. It’s got the language side, the vocab and the grammar and then you’ve got the history side – the historical context – and then it’s the literature side with the analysis and interpretation of texts.

Latin in the school curriculum focuses on the classical texts so Latin from the classical period of Rome – you’re translating text from Caesar, Cicero, Horace, Livy, Ovid, Virgil – so there’s all these texts; you could spend a lifetime and never have time to read them all.

They’re so rich and so fascinating and it’s wonderful to connect to something written more than 2000 years ago. We have a lot in common with the past.

I met Emma in year 8 through Latin Alive. It’s an extension subject offered to those who are interested. It’s offered to a select group of girls.

In year 9 she was enrolled in the year 11 Latin class because of scheduling clashes. Thus it was a more intense beginning to learning the language than through class, so we did a little bit of extra work together. She was learning verbs while the other students were doing assessments for the VCE.

I’ve learned so much from Emma. First of all there’s what I admire about her, which is her steely resolve. That combined with her unwavering confidence in herself, which is not a fashionable characteristic that we usually celebrate in young women.

Having seen girls who excel academically and achieve their personal goals – I know that they’re women that are self-actualised.

I really admire this in Emma and I want to foster and nurture this in her. She has lovely attributes as well, like kindness and warmth and generosity – they’re all there too and they’re important but this confidence is important because if students like Emma believe they can, then they can. If they think they can’t then they just don’t.

I love watching her push herself in class to learn.

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Sacré Cœur