"What do the words 'despair' and 'inspiration' and the state of South Carolina have in common?" he asks. Answering his own question, he leads the class through the Latin words spiro (I breathe) and spero (I hope) to the Palmetto State's motto--Dum Spiro Spero--"While I breathe, I hope." Despite detours along the way for comparisons with cognates in Spanish and French--and the early hour--the class is mostly quiet and wholly engaged.
McKnight jokes as he takes them through Latin verbs, and the kids laugh. He tells the Oedipus story, and they groan at the thought of marrying their moms. And he concludes by telling them that if they don't learn their Latin verbs at home, they'll be learning them in class for the rest of the semester.
"My job is to teach you Latin and I will do that," he says seriously. "I'd rather talk about fun things that make us more interesting people, but one way or another, I will teach you Latin."
Before McKnight took Latin, he didn't even expect to go to college.