In 1999, Harvard-Westlake was advertising at Stanford University for an English teacher opening while Latin teacher Paul Chenier was at graduate school there for classics. Figuring that his literature-based seminars at Stanford would make him a good fit, he applied for the job, but didn’t get it.
But he did come to the middle school campus that year, having been hired to teach The World and Europe I and Latin III.
Now, 15 years later, Chenier will assume the job he originally applied for: English teacher. After a career that has included teaching history, Latin and Greek as well as a tenure as upper school World Languages Department Head, Chenier will teach English II and AP English Literature next year.
Although Chenier said he’s always loved teaching Latin, he never forgot about the prospect of teaching English.
He even asked Head of School Jeanne Huybrechts a couple years ago to keep him in mind for a position if the opportunity ever arose.
Not that moving to English is what’s always been on his mind — he said he would have been happy teaching Latin forever, and he consistently refers to the Latin program not as a program but as a family.
“It’s a small family that I’m happy will be taken care of but of course I’m going to miss as well,” he said. “You’d have to be quite cold not to. And Latin itself, of course I love it forever, it’s like a lifelong hobby. It’s not going to be something I’ll ever put behind me. I’ve had a long, happy relationship with it and it’s not going to end any time soon.”
He’ll still be teaching the new Kutler Center course “Myth and Its Meaning in the Ancient and Modern World,” he may continue advising Junior Classical League and his answer to whether he would teach Latin again was “who knows.” Still, the most noticeable feature of his desk in the World Languages office were the stacks of English II and AP Lit books he’d just gotten.
“It’s like being part of a fantastic book club,” Chenier said. His new copy of “Antigone,” which he’d just been paging through, was open on his desk, and he returned to it.
He’s also looking forward to returning to Shakespeare, watching the evolution of the legacy of classical thought in works like “1984” and, most of all, to learning and growing. “I teach to grow,” he told his Greek directed study class, the first class to whom he broke the news.
“I don’t mean that in an arrogant way,” Chenier said. “But that attitude I hope is a winning one as a teacher in a classroom, that you enjoy the growth and it still excites you.”