File photo: Denise Civiletti

Riverhead’s Latin language program is returning this school year.

The Riverhead Central School District has hired Aidan Walsh as the district’s new high school Latin teacher, according to a statement by the district. According to his LinkedIn page, Walsh is a freelance tutor at Varsity Tutors and an editor and database manager for the Universal Peace Federation.l He has an advanced certificate in teaching Latin and a bachelor’s degree in classics and classical languages, literatures and linguistics from Hunter College. He also has a master’s degree in New Testament/early Christianity from the University of Chicago.

“Mr. Walsh is committed to developing the Latin program for our current students and the next generation of Latinists at Riverhead,” a statement from the district reads.

The future of Riverhead’s Latin program has been unclear since both longtime Riverhead Latin teachers retired. Lorene Custer unexpectedly retired last year after she was told that she would be teaching high school instead of middle-level Latin. Her husband and former high school Latin teacher, Dr. Jeff “Doc” Greenberger, retired in December 2019 and remained as a contract employee until the end of that school year. The program was without a teacher since the beginning of last school year. Students who remained in the program last year were being taught through Sterling Academy, an online institution.

“This is wonderful news,” Custer and Greenberger wrote in a statement to RiverheadLOCAL. “We are thrilled that Riverhead is bringing back a program that has been part of the Blue Wave tradition since the 19th century, and which has informed the lives of generations of Riverhead‘s best and brightest. Good luck and Bona Fortuna to the new Latin teacher and all the prospective Latinists. It is gratifying to know that once again the happy ducks will quack, and the pigs will dance – into the future, and beyond!”

The apparent impending demise of the program drew fire from the community.

Trustee Colin Palmer, who made reinstating the Latin program one of his top goals while running for school board this spring, said he was excited by the hiring in a phone interview with RiverheadLOCAL Tuesday. 

Palmer said the revival of the Latin program was brought through a “mixture of the community keeping pressure on the district and also having a new superintendent who understood the importance of the program.”

“The next big step is just to make sure that the program has as much support as it needs,” Palmer said, adding that his goal going forward is to reinstate the program in the middle school.

Students interested in participating in the program should contact their guidance counselor, the district said. 

Editors Note: 9/1/21 10:20 a.m. This article was updated with a statement from Lorene Custer and Jeff Greenberger.

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.