When high school teacher Sarah Roach takes attendance, she routinely notices that she has more students in her classroom than the number who are technically enrolled in Latin courses she teaches. They're not lost or sneaking into her classroom to visit friends. The extra half-dozen students are coming for the Latin.
Roach, 54, has taught Latin at Highland School in Warrenton, Va., for 25 years and has seen interest in the ancient language grow steadily throughout her tenure. When she first began, Roach taught a few students in a single class. Now she teaches 80 students, in classes geared toward a range of skill levels.
Though it is often considered a dead language, Latin is alive and flourishing in high school classrooms across the country. In the past 10 years, the number of students taking the National Latin Exam has risen by 30,000 to about 135,000, while the number of students taking the Advanced Placement Latin exams has nearly doubled. Some say the resurgence is linked to increased interest in SAT preparation and Latin's ability to help students succeed on the test's verbal section, while others believe young adults' obsession with Harry Potter and his Latin spells are driving the trend. But popular Latin teachers like Roach suggest that dynamic, enthusiastic educators might actually be the key to the language's surging popularity
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