Or, for those of us who don’t know Latin: Welcome, Dennis Toscano!
Dennis is Priory’s new Classical Languages teacher. He will be teaching two 7th grade Latin classes, one 8th, and one 9th. He’ll also be coaching winter soccer.
Hailing originally from Medellín, Colombia, Dennis traveled far and wide before landing in St. Louis.
In High School in Colombia, Latin and Greek were his favorite subjects, and he also enjoyed studying Philosophy. After high school, he moved to the United States to attend Christendom College in Virginia, where he majored in Philosophy and earned his Bachelor of Arts in May of 2010.
His first job was at a small boys’ boarding school in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he taught Latin and Greek, coached soccer and served as a “dorm father.” At the end of his first year, he took a group of boys on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The pilgrims traveled from Lourdes in Southern France to northern Spain on bicycles. “It took a month,” he said. “I don’t know if I could do that again!”
After reaching their destination, the boys (along with other teachers) went back to the United States while he stayed to visit with an old friend. The friend introduced him to prominent Latinist who runs a humanities academy, called the Vivarium Novum, in Rome. The professor offered Dennis a full scholarship to study for a year. “That’s when I really got into Latin,” Dennis said. He studied a full curriculum of the classics and humanities – all in Latin. “We [the students] came from all over the world, so Latin was the common language for both instruction and communication. I spoke nothing but Latin for a year.”
When his time in Rome came to an end, he moved to Texas to teach Latin at a high school in Dallas. He taught Latin and Spanish at the high school for two years, and dreamed of going to the University of Kentucky, which has the only graduate classics program in North America that uses Latin as the primary language of instruction. He had already met the UK Classics professors at an academic conference in Rome. After his second year of teaching, he was accepted into the UK Masters program, and moved to Lexington to study with the same professors who wrote the Latin books Priory students currently use.
Once again, Dennis was fully immersed in Latin. “I spoke Latin for two years in that program, and did all my graduate work in Latin. I wrote my thesis in Latin. I lived in a house with other graduate students and we spoke only Latin.” He did speak English to his then-girlfriend and to the students he taught as part of his funding program, but otherwise, it was all-Latin, all-the-time. “I was deeply immersed in Latin and Classics for those two years,” he said.
Dennis has had quite the summer. He graduated, then married that English-speaking girlfriend, Catherine, in June. They met at the University of Kentucky, where she was a senior studying Economics during Dennis’ first year of graduate school. She had moved to Nashville, three hours away, for work while he finished up grad school. They moved here shortly after the wedding.
Dennis and Catherine are settling into their new life in St. Louis. “I haven’t had a normal life of not being a grad student in a while, but since we’ve been here, we’ve been swimming a lot and getting to know the main sites. We read books together, and watch old shows and movies.” They’ve visited the Arch and the zoo, and the St. Louis Art Museum. They don’t have any pets, but Dennis loves parrots and may wind up hanging out with Father Michael’s birds here on campus. “I grew up with parrots. In South America, they fly around the city. My family just kind of adopted a few through the years.” Dennis has an older sister who lives in Washington, D.C. The rest of his family still lives in Colombia. He gets to visit them every couple of years, and everyone just came to Kentucky for the wedding.
He’s looking forward to this school year, “becoming part of the Priory family, getting to know the kids very well, and sharing my love of Latin and Classics with them.”