“Grandpa thinks it would be good for you to take Latin, so take it.”
Christopher Laco obeyed his parent’s directive, dutifully registering for Latin I as an incoming freshman. The class turned out to be hard, but Laco toughed it out. His sophomore year, he had Dr. Greg “Doc” Knittel as his teacher for Latin II, and everything changed. The language came alive for him in a way it hadn’t before. So great was Doc Knittel’s impact on Laco that he registered for Greek his junior year just to stay in his class.
“I really had no idea what I was getting myself into,” jokes Laco, who graduated in 2003. Greek was a struggle for him in the beginning, too, but he stuck with it and persevered. Laco believes that having to put forth extra effort in Latin and Greek, which did not come easily to him, has made him a more effective teacher. He understands the students who initially have trouble grasping the basics.
Department chair Joe Zebrak ’87 agrees that Laco, who primarily teaches freshmen, has the patience needed to help struggling students.
“Chris is an excellent classroom teacher. He always cares about his students’ progress and that is why he has worked with the students that needed a little more encouragement. He is our best option for the slower paced classes. He is kind, caring, and patient,” says Zebrak.
The idea to go into teaching entered Laco’s mind while he was still a student at Ignatius, performing as part of the Circus Company. He had wanted to be part of the extra-curricular ever since fifth grade, when the club performed at his grade school, St. Mark’s. Performing was fun, but he found he also enjoyed being a mentor to younger students.
“I really enjoyed teaching kids,” says Laco. “The success of the Circus Company relies on older members teaching younger members.”
Laco studied Latin and Greek at Kenyon College, spending a portion of his studies abroad in Rome and Athens. As a freshman at Kenyon, he and a friend signed up for a ballroom dancing class on a lark. Laco ended up enjoying it, making lots of new friends and even dancing competitively that year. He jokes that his dancing abilities “paid off” last summer, when he and his wife, Melissa, were married and aced their first dance at the reception.
Laco chose to return to Saint Ignatius after graduation as part of the Alumni Discernment and Volunteer Program during the 2007-2008 school year. His duties included helping coordinate student volunteers to work with neighborhood children, co-moderating the Mission Collection steering committee, tutoring Latin and co-moderating the Circus Company with Art Thomas.
This experience solidified Laco’s calling to become a teacher. He was hired as a Latin teacher at Gesu School in University Heights, where he spent the 2008-2009 school year developing a six-week introductory Latin program for 7th and 8th graders. He joined the Saint Ignatius faculty in the fall of 2009.
Laco continues to co-moderate the Circus Company, and is planning a Circus Company alumni reunion show later in the school year. Co-moderator Art Thomas says Laco is an ideal Circus Company leader.
“Chris knows the role that the organization played in his development at Saint Ignatius,” says Thomas. “He instills in Circus Company members the sense of service to others that is possible as they develop their talents.”