As of this year, Marblehead High School has a new Latin teacher: Ms. Dalena Nguyen. We conducted a brief interview to get to know her and her thoughts on teaching Latin.
Q: Is there anything in particular that inspired you to begin teaching?
A: I would say it was when I was in 8th grade and I had my Latin teacher, Ms. Luong. You know, when you
think about Latin and who teaches it, you don’t have many teachers with my own type of background who would be teaching Latin, so in a way that encouraged my studies in the classics. She has been such an amazing mentor; I still keep in touch with her, and I really want to have the same type of space where people of a different background are learning the classics.
Q: What sparked your interest in Latin?
A: In terms of what sparked my interest in Latin… unfortunately I’ll say that for my school, students were
required to take Latin from seventh grade up to tenth grade. But I think what sparked my interest was when we were doing grammar because when we were learning that, you were doing a little language puzzle with all the bits and pieces. You’re making those connections, right there.
Q: What aspect of the language do you find the most interesting or weird?
A: I would say that the aspect that’s probably the weirdest is the English derivatives. There are some weird
words you wouldn’t think derive from certain Latin words. For example, the word porpoise is a combination of the word porcus, pig, and the word pisces, for fish… but you often blame the French words for the weird derivatives.
Q: Do you have any hobbies you particularly enjoy?
A: One of my hobbies is origami, which if you stay with me for Magic Block, there’s always origami and
some arts. My main hobby is probably 3D origami, where it’s sort of like Legos, but with paper. It’s these little triangles, and you put them together. I’ve made a narwhal, and I fold paper cranes on the side because there’s a legend that if you make 1,000 paper cranes, you can make a wish. I think I’m at 300-something. My goal is to get to 1,000 by the end of the year, but I have been slacking. I’ll get there, though!
Q: Which mythological figure do you like the most? Are there any you feel you relate to?
A: This is a tough one; let’s see. I think Perseus is the one that I like the most, since he’s the least… wrong
among the heroes. (Yeah, they’re all kind of problematic.) Especially when it came to war and how they treated others. It’s hard to find people you like though, on the hero side of things.
Q: Do you have any books or shows you really like and would recommend?
A: Right now I am watching “My Happy Marriage,” which is a really sweet anime show about love: it’s two
people finding love even though it’s an arranged marriage. One of them has low self esteem, so it’s really
beautiful to see them bond and that person gain confidence and realize they’re not worthless, as they had
thought. They are loved, they are valued. And it has this message for people who feel that way: out there, there is someone that will cherish you, even if you don’t feel like that at the moment.
Q: How often do you think about the Roman Empire?
A: If I don’t think about the Roman Empire, am I really doing my job correctly?