Each spring, for one glorious afternoon, Michael McGrann takes a break from his regular duties as World Languages Chair of Morristown-Beard School to become...Emperor McGrann. As Emperor, he has a very different set of responsibilities. To begin, he must signal the start of the chariot races on Burke Field. In the case of the 2018 races, this meant that he had to preside over a record-breaking 18 teams of charioteers in their student-made vehicles. Next, he’ll need to carefully monitor the half-time events, which include a “wild beast hunt” and a foot race. Finally, he oversees the cleanup, which sometimes means reminding the teams to remove their chariots from underneath the bleachers. In this last matter, the Emperor shows his true colors. This year, after taking apart several of the abandoned chariots himself, Mr. McGrann was amazed at the work that had gone into the engineering and assembly of each. “To see the results of that process was kind of inspiring to me...the kids do put some real heart into it.” Not the sentiments of your run-of-the-mill dictator. He is, in fact, a patient and dedicated Latin teacher, Latin Club advisor, and department chair.
Mr. McGrann has been with MBS for six years and his impact on the school extends well beyond the fun and festivities of the Circus Maximus. From school trips to the historical sites of Ancient Rome to a complete overhaul of the World Languages department’s pedagogical philosophy, Mr. McGrann has brought both a great love for his content and a seriousness of educational purpose to the community. And even though his particular language is one of the oldest ones taught anywhere, his approach to language acquisition is refreshingly new. “We’re trying to develop a program that recognizes that students learn languages at different rates; one that would allow students to move forward in a language at a pace that’s comfortable for them so that they have the best chance for success.” Students and staff alike are fortunate that Mr. McGrann continues to teach what he loves but that he also creates a World Languages experience that engages everyone both inside and outside of the classroom.