Standing Tall for Classics

Salvador Bartera

Salvador Bartera is lecturer in the Department of Classics.

Salvador Bartera is in his sixth year as a full-time lecturer in the Department of Classics. During this time, he has taught an average of twelve hours per semester and covered no fewer than ten different course preparations, including classical culture courses and Greek and Latin language and literature at all levels. He has taught an advanced course on Roman civilization and teaches the Roman half of the general education course Introduction to Classical Civilizations, which regularly has 200 or more students.

From the smallest language class to the largest lecture, Bartera’s performance has consistently been excellent. Peer evaluations of his teaching are enthusiastic, and his student evaluations are simply stellar.  In a department that takes great pride in the quality of its teaching, Bartera’s colleagues and students agree that he stands out.

“I can attest that he goes beyond the usual virtues we expect,” says Christopher Craig, professor and department head. “He is, of course, well prepared, highly organized, personally engaging, varied in his presentation, and welcoming of questions, which he answers thoroughly and kindly. But Salvador does much more.”

Bartera’s doing “more” means that he cares deeply about students’ learning, and he shows it by carefully attending to the students’ class participation and writing assignments.

“I accept that students don’t start at the same level, so I place a lot of stock in student effort and improvement,” Bartera says. “If I sense students may be having difficulty even before they express it, I reach out to them to offer help, particularly the shy ones.” He encourages students to ask questions after class and to make an appointment during his office hours.

But Bartera isn’t considered an easy teacher. It’s not uncommon for student evaluations to include comments like “This was the most difficult class that I have ever taken, but the one where I learned the most.”

Bartera admits that he spends many hours preparing for each class, even the ones he has taught several times. “I share with my students the most recently published scholarship in the field,” he says. “It keeps the subject matter fresh for me and for my students.”

Michael Lumley, now a third-year student at Harvard Law School, recalls that students were motivated by Bartera’s personal interest in their learning.

“Salvador is more than a fantastic teacher, he is a good man who cares about his students, and that’s a tremendous asset to him as a teacher and a mentor,” Lumley says. “I remember that Salvador was so invested in us as students that none of us wanted to let him down.”

“Of all the classes I’ve taken at UT, [Salvador Bartera] stands above all other teachers.” —former Latin student Betty Carmon

Betty Carmon, a non-traditional student who completed four semesters of Latin study with Bartera,  says his classes inspired her to return to school to continue working on a degree. Like Lumley, Carmon acknowledges that Bartera’s personality and teaching style made difficult material easier to learn.

“Dr. Bartera has the talent of presenting challenging material in such a way as to promote enthusiastic conversation,” Carmon says. “Of all the classes I’ve taken at UT, he stands above all other teachers.”

Bartera says students like Carmon who stay with language study for the long-term are the most rewarding to teach. “The mastery of the language that advanced students bring to the classroom enables me to take the class to a higher level, making it more challenging for me and the students,” he says. Bartera admits that studying Greek, Latin, and classical studies is not for the timid and undisciplined student. “The material is very difficult, but the investment of effort and time returns extraordinary dividends.”

He argues that studying classics equips students with a historical perspective and a broad understanding of the achievements of the Roman and Greek worlds. Likewise, studying Greek and Latin languages empowers modern language comprehension and is good preparation for leadership.

“Records of testing data show that students who have completed classical language studies in Greek and Latin are consistently the highest scorers on verbal comprehension sections of the college entrance exam (SAT), the graduate school entrance exam (GRE), the law school admission test (LSAT), and the medical school admission test (MCAT),” says Bartera. (He keeps the documentation nearby for anyone who might question that assertion.)

Salvador Bartera with students

Bartera and students in Classics 352 (Roman Lyric Poetry) discuss a translation of a poem by Catullus.

Interest in Roman history and classical languages came naturally to Bartera, a native of Urbino, Italy. Bartera completed his Laurea (master’s degree equivalent) from the University of Urbino in 2002 and completed a doctorate in classics from the University of Virginia in 2008. To date, he has published two peer-reviewed scholarly articles and a total of nine book reviews. Among the several projects he is currently working on are two books: A Commentary on Tacitus, Annals 16, and  Bernardino Stefonio:  Flavia tragoedia.

As his teaching schedule permits, Bartera accepts invitations to present his scholarship at other universities and at national and international conferences. He presented most recently at the University of Liverpool in January and will return to the United Kingdom in November for an engagement at Oxford University.

A lover of the outdoors, Bartera found it easy to call East Tennessee home. Of course, home means something different now, thanks to his wife, Whitney Bryan, whom he met locally in 1998. While he brings his Italian heritage to his marriage, he admits that he’s glad he exercises regularly due to his newfound fondness for three Southern food classics: biscuits, barbecue, and pecan pie.

–Lynn Champion