Barry McNamara  |   Published March 03, 2021

‘I Am Here for the Kids’

Matt Katsenes ’04 wins prestigious classics teaching award.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – One of Monmouth College’s most accomplished classics alumni has padded his impressive résumé, earning a prestigious teaching award.

MATT KATSENES: 2004 Monmouth graduate received prestigious classics teaching award. MATT KATSENES: 2004 Monmouth graduate received prestigious classics teaching award.After many years of tireless work and enthusiastic dedication, Matt Katsenes ’04 recently won the Classical Association of New England’s Matthew I. Wiencke Teaching Award, which recognizes excellence in precollegiate teaching.

In a letter of recommendation, one colleague wrote, “If there were a Most Valuable Player Award for Best Colleague and Community Citizen, Matt would be most people’s first nominee.”

Another wrote, “No one loves teaching the classics the way Matt Katsenes loves teaching the classics.”

Katsenes developed that love for the classics at Monmouth College, where he studied under longtime classics chairTom Sienkewicz.

“Outside the classroom, Matt is very quiet and humble, but he clearly is an inspirational and enthusiastic classroom teacher who makes the Roman world and the Latin language come alive for his students,” said Sienkewicz, who has remained close to Katsenes for the past two decades.

“Classics started for me as a hobby when I was a student at Lincoln-Way High School in New Lenox, Illinois,” said Katsenes, who originally attended Augustana College before transferring to Monmouth at the start of his sophomore year in 2001. “The thing that brought Monmouth to mind as a school to transfer to was attending the spring 2001 edition of the Bernice L. Fox lecture series.”

During his time as a Monmouth student, Katsenes recalled having the honor of golf-carting Fox across campus to attend the Fox Lecture.

Katsenes quickly found a home in the Classics Department and a mentor in Sienkewicz, who has since retired. He double majored in classics and mathematics, and his senior thesis, titled “From Infinity to Irrationality and Back Again: An Investigation of the Classical Foundations of the Calculus,” combined his two interests.

“Professor Sienkewicz played a pivotal role in launching me into a career in classics. His classes epitomized the kind of flexibility and individual attention combined with academic rigor that I try to bring to my students today.” Matt Katsenes

“Professor Sienkewicz played a pivotal role in launching me into a career in classics,” said Katsenes. “His classes epitomized the kind of flexibility and individual attention combined with academic rigor that I try to bring to my students today.”

Yet despite Sienkewicz’s very best efforts, Katsenes first pursued a master’s degree in mathematics at the University of Iowa. While there, he found himself missing the classics and the liberal arts and quietly began “sneaking in classics courses” here and there. That led him to pursue a master’s degree in teaching Latin and classical humanities from the University of Massachusetts, the premier program for training Latin teachers.

“Even after I left Monmouth to pursue graduate school in mathematics, Professor Sienkewicz continued to encourage me to return to classics,” said Katsenes. “He was right, and I’m glad I listened to him. We remain friends to this day, and I look forward to visiting him again when it is safe to do so.”

Katsenes taught in Massachusetts and in Illinois before moving on to his current position at Moultonborough Academy, a small, rural public school in Moultonborough, New Hampshire, where he’s been teaching for the past decade. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, he coaches Nordic skiing, the math team and Quiz Bowl, and serves as president of the teacher’s union. Faculty, students and parents alike all love him for his kindness and generosity.

“It’s about relationships. Each child is different and I want to reach out to help them grow. I participate in building a caring and intellectually stimulating environment where they can thrive.” Matt Katsenes

Katsenes has put a great deal of thought into his teaching philosophy, but he said it boils down to six words: “I am here for the kids.”

“It’s about relationships,” he said. “Each child is different and I want to reach out to help them grow. I participate in building a caring and intellectually stimulating environment where they can thrive.”

Part of his philosophy comes from his experiences learning from Sienkewicz.

“In Latin class, providing that environment means adapting the curriculum to fit the interests of the group, something I learned from Professor Sienkewicz,” he said. “In planning next semester’s classes, he always consulted with students and chose texts which appealed to them. Just last week, I read an Aristophanes play with my sophomores that I first read with Tom, at my request.”

Katsenes is also very active in the classics field, attending regional and national conferences, and he has presented at the American Classical League’s Summer Institute. He also appeared as part of the “Why Classics?” panel in 2016, when Monmouth College hosted the National Eta Sigma Phi Convention. His mother, Rose, made a plethora of authentic Greek and Roman clothing, which are featured at the biennial Classics Day, hosted by the Monmouth Classics Department.

Once a hobby, classics ultimately became the passion and the calling for Matthew Katsenes, part of a long line of successful Latin teachers produced by Monmouth College.

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