Alumni Profiles Series: Clinton Kinkade
Clinton Kinkade is currently teaching Latin at the Newman School in Boston, Massachusetts. Previous to this, he taught Latin at the Estancia Valley Classical Academy (EVCA) in New Mexico for three years before attending Duke, where he received a Ph.D. in Classical Studies in 2021. His dissertation explores the nature of ancient literary analysis on the works of the tragedian Sophocles. He also holds an M.A. in Humanities from the University of Chicago and a B.A. in Classical Studies from Colby College.
What differences have you found between teaching a decade ago and teaching now?
The major differences have to do with the nature of the institutions where I’ve taught. My old school was a public charter school in rural New Mexico where Latin was a required course for all students, so I had every student attending the school in my classes. Additionally, EVCA began the same year I started teaching there, so I was a part of that school’s development from its inception. Now I’m at the Newman School, which is a private school attended by a diverse array of students from within and around the metro Boston area, as well as quite a few international students.
Tell me about why you pursued a Ph.D. and returned to teaching high school.
The initial decision to go into teaching began as a matter of circumstance—my M.A. program was only a year-long program, and after receiving that degree I didn’t have enough time to apply to Ph.D. programs. So I figured, “I like Latin, and I probably know a thing or two about teaching, so I should try teaching Latin!” (I didn’t know a thing or two about teaching, but I quickly learned once I started.) The decision to pursue a further degree came as another matter of circumstance: I had a friend presenting at CAMWS (Classical Association of the Midwest and South) only a short drive away, and after attending various talks and being surrounded by all these scholars wrapped up in research I began to feel the itch to get back into doing that sort of research myself!
As for the decision to return to secondary education, that’s always been an occupation I’ve been ready to return to, especially as I’ve realized just how much I enjoyed being a teacher at EVCA. I’ve especially found it rewarding to find that teaching at the Newman School has allowed me to incorporate both my teaching experience at Duke and my own research into my new classes. I’ve found the curriculum here to be rewardingly rigorous, and I’ve had the opportunity to teach an ancient literature course on Greek tragedy, which is directly related to my own research. But most of all I’ve been delighted to return to the rewarding and important work of teaching high school students and preparing them for their careers beyond high school, both within and beyond academia.
What differences do you see between teaching college and high school?
While I first learned this during my initial time teaching high school, returning to the high school classroom after Duke has really shown me how much more structure younger students need in order to flourish in their classes. Because of the nature of higher education and the degree of choice in coursework it provides, college students can be expected to put more responsibility into managing their own studies, whereas younger students really do need guidance on that sort of thing, especially as they are still learning how to learn. In that sense I’m not just teaching my students Latin, but also how to manage their own time and organize their approach to work so that they can tackle the challenges they will face in their adult lives. Even something as small as showing students how to organize their homework into folders or how to pace themselves to get an assignment in on time end up being really important for their development as students.
What changes have you witnessed in the ways students learn?
There are certainly a lot of changes that have happened in teaching in the past decade, though it’s difficult to say what is just due to the passage of time and what can be attributed to events like the pandemic. Of course, one of the larger changes is that I’ve grown older—when I first started teaching I was a young man, not that much older than my students, and now I’m the same age as many of my colleagues. From what I have heard from my colleagues, however, it does appear that in the past few years the effects of the pandemic and the necessary shift to temporary virtual classrooms have had a noticeable effect on the progress of students moving along their curricula, due to the degree of structure and mentorship that is lost without in-person instruction. Thankfully it does appear that things are returning to a more normal situation this year, though! Students are also much more plugged-in now, electronically speaking; at my previous school no laptops were permitted in classrooms, whereas now the expectation is that all students will make use of them during their classes.
Do you have any advice for current graduate students considering a career in secondary-school teaching?
Teaching middle and high school is an immensely rewarding and important occupation, but it is also not easy. There is a great deal of work and energy that goes into teaching here, more so than teaching as a graduate instructor, simply because you will be at school throughout the day. You’ll have additional responsibilities outside your classroom and have to learn how to wear many hats: you’ll proctor study halls, run after-school activities, manage activities on weekends—it is very much a full-time profession. If you are interested in teaching middle and high school and haven’t yet taken any additional courses on pedagogical matters like curriculum development, I would highly recommend looking into those to prepare you for what this career expects of you. But if this career is something you are interested in, know that it is wonderful and important work—and we can always use more teachers!
Do you have any research projects you’re currently developing?
Yes, I am currently revising an article adapting one of my dissertation chapters for submission to a scholarly journal on the unique nature of scholia on Sophocles—that is, the ancient commentaries analyzing his tragedies like Oedipus Tyrranos—and how they possess a coherent philosophical approach to their material in a way that we don’t see in other similar works of ancient scholarship.
What is your favorite Duke memory?
It would be difficult to settle on just one memory—I have so many fond memories, particularly of the tight-knit community of my fellow graduate students in Classical Studies, like our weekly excursions to local trivia nights for socializing or just talking and working together in our common areas in Allen and Page. I found having that community as a foundation to fall back on was a vital asset during the many challenges one can face during graduate school.
Ph.D. Candidate, Classical Studies
Erickson Bridges is a seventh-year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Classical Studies at Duke. His research interests lie primarily in Roman Epicureanism, early Imperial epic, and the Roman reception of foreign and private religion. Erickson holds a B.A. in Ancient Greek and Latin from Boston University.