Club Spotlight: Latin Club and Certamen

Students compete about their knowledge of the Latin language, history and culture in Certamen

Kayle Sacksteder ’22 sits with her hands ready to hit the buzzer once the moderator announces the phrase contestants must identify: faciam dies tuos. While most people would be clueless about the meaning of this phrase, Sacksteder identifies it as TikTok’s slogan, “make everything count”, due to her participation in Stevenson’s Latin program. 

Students who take Latin have the opportunity to participate in Latin club and their monthly competition, Certamen where they compete against surrounding schools such as Northside Prep and New Trier. Participants answer questions about Latin culture, vocabulary and grammar in a quiz bowl format. 

Christopher Mural is the club sponsor and the sole Latin teacher at Stevenson. Mural appreciates the way Certamen encourages students to learn Latin. 

“In college, I fell in love with Latin,” Mural said. “Latin club was just the natural thing to do to give children another community outside the Latin classroom. To be able to go into a competition that’s intense and rigorous and compete with other top-notch schools is exciting.”

Inside the classroom, they learn about the language itself, Greek, and Roman history. However, students usually learn about the side of Latin culture that is not usually recognized. 

“Latin isn’t just a language, it’s a culture as well,” said Sacksteder. “We don’t really learn about the white, rich part of the culture. We learn about the more realistic parts that aren’t as glamorous.”

Mural plans different projects for his students, such as making a children’s comic book and designing a house. These activities help the students build on their knowledge of Latin history for Certamen. 

“I have really amazing students in my classes,” Mural said. “They work really hard and are willing to do whatever activities I ask them to do. They have developed a passion for Latin and Certamen allows them to get deeper into it.”

Father Reginald Foster writes the Latin for the Church’s official documents. Foster estimates that around the world less than 100 people speak Latin compared to the 460 million who speak Spanish and 1,311 million who speak Mandarin Chinese. Some consider Latin a “dead” language, but Latin Club and Certamen offer a place for Stevenson students to learn about and discuss the language and its history. Angela Zhou ’22 finds that this brings their community closer together.

“It’s a tight-knit community,” said Zhou. “There’s only like a hundred of us. It’s nice to know there are other people learning such an obscure language.”

Since the Latin community is a small minority of the Stevenson population, Latin club and Certamen accompany each other in encouraging an appreciation for Latin culture and provide a place for these students to congregate together and share their knowledge with each other. 

“I’ve made some of my best friends through Latin,” said Sacksteder. “My favorite part is the team atmosphere we have, and it’s nice that there are so many people there for you no matter how we do at competitions.”