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The Latin Learner Podcast

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The Latin Learner Podcast offers helpful information from experts in the school community on a wide variety of topics, ranging from social-emotional health to DEI efforts to learning strategies, and more.

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William Horberg ’76 is the executive producer of “The Queen’s Gambit,” a television limited series on Netflix. He has an extensive resume as a producer for several exceptional films, including “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” “Cold Mountain” and “The Kite Runner.” 

William Horberg '76 with actress Anya Taylor-Joy on the set of "The Queen’s Gambit" in Berlin.

William Horberg '76 with actress Anya Taylor-Joy on the set of "The Queen’s Gambit" in Berlin. (Photo credit: Phil Bray)


What is your favorite memory at Latin?

I have many favorite memories of Latin, but I guess the one that really stands out was this amazing trip we took on our spring break one year to the Appalachian part of the country to go to see bluegrass music. Dennis Sullivan, who was our anthropology teacher by day, but an amazing mandolin player in a bluegrass band at night, organized this expedition for us. And we spent a week or 10 days in Kentucky, in Tennessee and meeting all these amazing musicians and going to hear a fantastic kind of indigenous American music. 

Tell us about your latest projects.

My latest projects are “The Queen's Gambit,” which I hope everybody has seen on Netflix. It's a limited series. I also have finished a movie called “Flag Day” that is directed by and starring Sean Penn and his daughter Dylan Penn that will come out in 2021, assuming that the world is still here and that movie theaters reopen. 

How did you get involved in the film industry?

I literally printed up business cards that said I was a producer when I hadn’t done anything and hard to believe, but it actually worked.
William Horberg '76
Very circuitously. I dropped out of music school in Boston and I returned to Chicago to open the Sandburg Theatre with my Latin school, classmate Albert Berger. We showed classic and foreign films. So I started out in the exhibition side of the business. When the theatre closed, I decided to try to make movies like the ones that I loved and was screening. And I literally printed up business cards that said I was a producer when I hadn’t done anything and hard to believe, but it actually worked. The first thing I made was a series on Chicago blues music that we taped live at Chicago Fest on Navy Pier. I tried to write a few screenplays with a buddy of mine from Second City, and I got the rights to three novels that I loved. Two of which improbably eventually got made, “A Rage in Harlem” for Miramax and “Miami Blues” for Orion Pictures. In the meantime, I finally realized I couldn't reinvent the film business in Chicago, and if I was going to seriously have a go at it, I had to follow my friend Albert and move out to LA. I landed a job at Paramount Pictures, which really was my undergrad and grad school in the film business. 

What are the responsibilities of an executive producer and how is it different from the role of a producer?

Well, historically there are a lot of different people who do very different things from finding the material to raising the money, to going to high school or being just friends with the movie star that have all gotten some form of producing credit on films. I was the chairman of the Producers Guild in New York for a number of years. And the Guild has worked really hard to define the role of a producer and to limit the people who get the credit to those who actually do the work, which is to have the primary creative and financial authority and oversight over the film. In movies, the produced by credit designates, that primary role in television. It is the executive producer credit. 

What criteria do you use to choose your projects?

I have to fall in love, but I have a hard heart. So I don't fall in love too easily. I have found You better start from a place of passionate obsession, or you will never be able to sustain the effort it takes to will your project into existence.
William Horberg '76
that it can take years or even decades to get something made. So you better start from a place of passionate obsession, or you will never be able to sustain the effort it takes to will your project into existence. I also think of a Venn diagram. One circle represents the content that is getting made. Another circle represents the project I want to make. Where do they overlap and how big or small is that intersection. 

What is your favorite project that you've worked on?

In some ways that is like asking who is your favorite among your children. You have put so much of yourself into each of them. As a studio executive, I felt really fortunate to work with masters like the Zucker brothers on the “Naked Gun” movies, Mike Nichols, on “Regarding Henry,” Francis Ford Coppola on “The Godfather Part Three.” And as a producer, my collaboration and partnership with Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella on “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “Cold Mountain” and other films was a huge part of my life. And amazingly or amusingly or both, given that I don't really play chess, my first film is a producer, “Searching for Bobby Fischer” and my most recent production, “The Queen's Gambit,” were two of my favorite experiences. 

How do you handle negative feedback or criticism on projects?

I am from Chicago. I pay people to intimidate or to silence my critics. No seriously, when I'm developing or making a movie, I welcome any smart person's candid critique, as long as it is constructive and respectful. But, once the project is complete and it's out in the world, I move on. There isn't anything I can do about it at that point. And there are always going to be those who get it and dig it. And those who don't for whatever reason.

The film industry has evolved over the years. Where do you see the future of film?

Paradoxically, change is actually the one constant in my business. The biggest change, as in every business, came with the advent of digital technology and the internet. Globalization, the hyper abundance of content, the migration from the prom primacy of the theatrical exhibition to the primacy of streaming content at home... Now, the pandemic has turbocharged the changes that were already underway. No one knows if movie theaters can even survive in this environment. So I try to focus on the things that are more eternal: the craft of good storytelling, creativity and problem solving, identifying and nurturing talent, and fresh voices. 

What skills have you learned at Latin that you use in your career today?

The love of reading and the analysis of great literature and films has served me well. More than half of my films have been movies that were adapted from books. I was blessed with great teachers that Latin, like Greg Baker and Mitch Siskin and Steve Schwartz, that really pushed us to think outside the box. Greg even used to run 16-millimeter prints of classic films at his house on the weekends. It was a truly exciting environment for learning. 

What advice would you give your high school self?

Try to maintain the attitude of a beginner that's enthusiastic... curious... eager to learn... questioning the certainties around you... willing to try... be unafraid of making mistakes...
William Horberg '76

This was one that I had to really ponder. In fact, it was fun because I reached out to other people to ask that same question too. Here's where I landed. I would say, don't look for advice from your future self. They have already made all the mistakes that you need to make for yourself. You already know everything that you need to know. You just don't know it. The journey is the destination, in my estimation. 

What have you learned professionally that is the universal truth to being successful in any field?

For me, I would say, try to maintain the attitude of a beginner that's enthusiastic... curious... eager to learn... questioning the certainties around you... willing to try... be unafraid of making mistakes... for sure, to work hard and to persevere, but don't take it all or yourself too seriously. 



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Latin’s COVID-19 Saliva Screening Program



Dr. Leslie Cordes is the senior medical consultant at Latin School of Chicago. She is also a pediatrician and has been a physician for 36 years. She has a master's in public health with a focus in epidemiology. 

What is the SARS-CoV-2 saliva screening and what does it measure?

Well, the process we're offering at Latin uses saliva samples and in an assay method, a method of detecting that's called RT-LAMP. In long terms it's called reverse transcription loop mediated isothermal amplification. What that does is it uses amplification methods on the saliva sample to detect SARS-CoV-2 RNA. And that's the virus that causes the disease that we know as COVID-19. And while this method is not as sensitive as PCR tests that you may have heard of and detecting that viral RNA, the cost and the quick turnaround time of this particular test, make it a very good screening tool. Both RT-LAMP that we're going to be using and PCR are categorized as a nucleic acid amplification test, which detects the genetic material or the RNA of the virus. And that's in contrast to the antigen tests that you also may have heard of, which are designed to detect certain viral proteins. 

How will this saliva screener make our school safer? And can we relax other measures such as the mask and distancing and such?

Well, the saliva-based screening adds another layer to Latin's mitigation strategy. And it's The saliva-based screening adds another layer to Latin's mitigation strategy.
Dr. Leslie Cordes
very, very important that our community recognize that it doesn't in any way take away the measures that have been in place since the start of school, including the proper and consistent masking, distancing, hand washing, and the many measures that were clearly outlined in the return to plan. But by instituting that screening protocol, we aim to identify and isolate the asymptomatic and presymptomatic cases of COVID-19 thus reducing the risk of transmission. So these are those people who may never have symptoms of COVID-19 yet are able to spread it, or those who we are catching early, who will go on to develop symptoms, but again could be transmitting. So we are, we are working to remove these individuals from the community as a way to reduce the risk of transmission. 

Who is it that gave us the idea about starting this test?

This test was developed for use in the school systems by Dr. Ed Campbell, who was professor of immunology and microbiology at Loyola University in Maywood. And he is a member of the school board of his own children's school out in LaGrange, Illinois. And as we were working through this pandemic, he started to realize that some of the techniques that he is familiar with in the laboratory and that some of his colleagues at University of Wisconsin, Madison and University of Colorado, Boulder, were working on, could be very helpful in establishing a screening program that could be used in schools. With the goal of having something that is cost effective for the school system and had a very quick turnaround time, both of which are hallmarks of a good screening test. So he and his lab and his other colleagues collaborated to create this, a screening test and began implementing it at his own kid's school at the start of the school year.

If we look at the other schools that are using this test, what kind of results do we see?

Well, we do see that it has been effective at picking up some asymptomatic cases. Thus far, the reported results, looking at the schools that have been using it, are picking up about half a percent of those who were screened. So those are people that were coming into school feeling well with no signs at all of COVID-19 who are then having tests that have been detected and then subsequently confirmed by PCR. So again, if we're looking to see what numbers we're reaching, we're looking at probably in the neighborhood of about a half of a percent for those screened.

What will be the procedure if I have already tested positive for COVID in the past?

If someone is tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 90 days or three months, we will not be asking that individual to submit a saliva sample.

Does this saliva screener replace a PCR test?

The answer to that is a very definitive, no, it does not. This is a screening test. It is not diagnostic and it is only for the purpose of alerting us. So we are going to ask all those that they then receive a diagnostic PCR test. We're also going to ask those individuals to isolate, and we will perform contact tracing as if this were an identified case. We're again going to then follow up with the diagnostic PCR test.

We at Latin are really working very hard to reduce the risk of viral transmission in the school and establish our school as a safe learning environment for all. 
Dr. Leslie Cordes

What resources can you look into if you're interested in more information on this saliva testing or testing in general?

I would recommend folks go to the CDC website. The work on testing and testing strategies and all the various options is evolving so very rapidly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regularly updates its website. So go to CDC.gov to search for screening strategies, various types of tests and for the most updated information available.

Why does all this matter?

We at Latin are really working very hard to reduce the risk of viral transmission in the school and establish our school as a safe learning environment for all.

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Beth Manning, a middle school science teacher at Latin, is a lifelong introvert. Growing up, she remembers feeling like she wasn't being the right kind of student in the classroom. After reading Susan Cain's book, “Quiet” several years ago, she saw all of the benefits that introverts can bring to a classroom and to a workplace. 

What are the common myths about introverts?

There have been studies done on CEOs and how introverted CEOs actually make more money for the company.
Beth Manning
One of the biggest myths about introverts is that they are broken extroverts and that they need to fix themselves so that they're more extroverted to fit in. You hear all the time that quiet people need to come out of their shell and that they need to live life more and have more fun. They get this message so much–that they're doing everything wrong and they are broken and they need to be fixed. We know now, that's not really the case. Introverts have so many gifts to bring and it’s about figuring out how your natural temperament can be respected.

Another myth is that introverts don't like to talk. But the truth is they don't really like to make small talk. They like to talk about important things. And so, and especially if you engage an introvert on a topic that they're really passionate about and that they really love, they won't let you get a word.

Another common myth about introverts is that they aren't going to be good leaders. The truth is you don’t have to be a big boisterous loud person in order to be a leader. There have been studies done on CEOs and how introverted CEOs actually make more money for the company.

What is the difference between being an introvert and being shy?

The big difference is that shyness involves social anxiety and a fear of negative judgment. Introverts might simply not have something to contribute at the time and be feeling inside perfectly fine about that. Somebody who's shy might not be contributing to a conversation because they're really worried about what other people are gonna think about them. 

How does the brain process experiences and information differently for introverts versus extroverts?

The amount of stimulation introverts and extroverts can handle is really different.
Beth Manning
It turns out that there are actually brain differences. Introverts are more sensitive to the dopamine neurotransmitter, so they require less dopamine to be happy. Sitting in a corner and reading, or just being quiet with their thoughts is going to give them enough dopamine to be content. While too much dopamine can be really overstimulating for an introvert. That's why if they've spent time in the gym at recess or spend time in some busy, loud classroom, they're going to be really overstimulated. They are then going to need some time to relax and recover from that in a quiet space. Extroverts, however, oftentimes need to do something that will increase adrenaline because they crave stimulation. The amount of stimulation introverts and extroverts can handle is really different.

The way the brain processes information is also different. An extrovert might get a stimulus, then it goes straight to brain processing, and that processing happens while they're talking. An introvert, however, gets a stimulus and it has to go through long-term memory first, then go through the planning portion of the brain. And only after those things happen, can they really start to process what has happened. That’s why introverts need time. Once they get that time, they come up with really amazing analysis. It’s really helpful for teachers to think about introversion versus extroversion as another way to differentiate in the classroom. 

What is the best way to work with introverts in a classroom setting?

Give introverts time. This well-researched classroom practice shows that if a teacher asks a question, the teacher might pick on the first hand that goes up. If the teacher waits three seconds–some people will even say 10 seconds–they are going to get way more hands going up, especially from those quiet kids, who've had that extra few seconds to think.

Teachers can also utilize technology with these digital corkboards where you can ask questions to the class. And then instead of just waiting for kids to raise hands and share that way, you can have them answer it on their iPads and then it could show up on the screen. This gives kids time to answer the question and write it all out. You then can see this kid who has never said anything in class before has this amazing question that pops up on the board for everyone to see. There's so much technology that can really help these introverts shine and help their ideas and their questions be seen. 

Parents can have conversations with the students about how these things that maybe some people perceive as weaknesses can be flipped around to strengths.
Beth Manning

How can parents support their introverted student?

Parents can have conversations with the students about how these things that maybe some people perceive as weaknesses can be flipped around to strengths. Think about embracing your natural tendencies and celebrate the fact that when you're given time to think, you really think deeply and you see details that other people don't see. You can help them realize that they're not flawed or defective. It's just how they are. There are techniques that kids can do to survive being in an extroverted world. Susan Cain mentions one in her book, “Quiet.” Introverts can think beforehand. Before you go to class, know what the class is going to be about and prepare what you're going to say. If introverts can go in right away knowing what they're going to say and plan in advance, they can get their thoughts out there at the beginning.

How do you foster collaboration between extroverted and integrated students?

Create a structure for managed roles to help foster collaboration between the students. Assign any kind of roles–a recorder, a timekeeper, a materials manager, and a group speaker–even an introvert can be a group speaker. If they're assigned that role, they'll take it really seriously and they'll be able to prepare for it and be a great group speaker. But, if they don't get assigned that role, then they might not feel comfortable taking that on because one thing introverts don't really like to do is they don't like to interrupt or they don't know how to interrupt.

How can people learn more and get more resources?

Susan Cain is really the one who started this conversation several years ago. She's got a couple of books. Her first one is “Quiet” and then she's got one that's geared towards students. She also has an amazing website, which is a whole world for introverts and promotes the greatness of introverts. Another helpful book is “Quiet Kids Count” by Chrissy Romano Arrabito, which is packed full of practical tips for teachers.

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Dr. Gabrielle Roberts is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in working with children, adolescents and young adults at Advocate Children's Hospital in Oak Lawn. Previously, she worked in residential treatment and in the child welfare system with youth who had experienced extreme trauma. She is also the parent of a lower school student at Latin. 


How can parents encourage children to talk to them about their emotions surrounding school and COVID-19?

First and foremost, check in with your children. If you know your child is already anxious, then I would say check in more frequently. If not, I would say check in from time to time. Ask open ended questions. How are you feeling about the coronavirus? How are you feeling about going to back to school? Listen. That’s most important. Validate their emotions. Let them know that you hear what they’re saying and that you understand it’s important to them. Be careful not to minimize their feelings. As adults, we have the beautiful wisdom of knowing that something your child feels is the end of the world or will forever alter their life is not really the case, but you can honor and validate that’s how they feel right now. Remind them that they can talk to you anytime about anything and that you’re here for them.

How important is it for parents to model the calm behavior asked of their students?

Very… as we're all going through this together. If you want a silver lining for this situation, which you may not, the situation is actually an excellent opportunity to teach your child coping skills. And these are skills that they're going to need for life beyond coronavirus. You can talk to your children about how you cope with stress and model that behavior, but we aren't perfect. We will make mistakes and modeling how we recover when we've failed to cope. How we problem solve when we're visibly anxious and not managing it well is really also an excellent modeling opportunity. So it's a win-win here.

Some students might experience separation anxiety from friends since they might be placed in different cohorts. How can a parent help with that change?

Again, start by listening, validating those feelings. Don't minimize those feelings. It is a big deal, even if, down the line, you know they'll be okay. It feels like a really big deal, especially when it comes to older children and teens, it's a big deal. The same goes for children who are maybe going to be remote and their peers are going to be in school, so help your child problem solve this. I know our children spend a lot of time on screens these days, but that social media connection, especially those apps that enable our children and teens to connect in real time, face-to-face has been really valuable right now for socialization and connection.

Every time I say this, I stutter because I'm usually so anti screen, but I've been promoting this because I think it's really helpful right now when it comes to that face-to-face connection. Also, remind your children and this isn't forever. That's something I find myself saying to myself and also to my daughter a lot. I tell her, “I cannot tell you when this is going to end, but I can promise you it will end.” And that's an important bottom line.

If a classmate contracts COVID-19, how should a parent explain it to their child? 

There's not one right answer. But as a general rule, I would start with a less is more approach. So in general, as adults, we tend to give more information than children are usually asking for. And so I would start by keeping it short and simple. Explain what happened and focus on the positive of the situation if you can.

“...David has COVID and is at home where his mom and dad are taking good care of him.” Depending upon the situation, how worried your child is, and is the child at home really sick, or are they hopefully at home and asymptomatic and just hanging out...? If it's the latter case, maybe arranging an opportunity for your child to virtually connect with that child would be a way to help reduce your child's worry. It also might be nice for the child who's stuck at home and disconnected from people too and maybe scared as well. 

How do you know when your child should talk to a professional about their anxiety? 

First of all, when in doubt, please consult a professional. I, as a professional, tell parents all the time to bring their child for a checkup. We get physical checkups every year, but we don't get mental health checkups every year. And obviously, I'm biased, but I think that's really important. And so I never mind when a parent schedules an appointment just to make sure their child is okay. That's wonderful. And I love telling parents, “Your child is doing great. Call me if you need something.” When your child's anxiety is persistent, they're having a lot of difficulties coping and that anxiety is interfering with their life, their school, home happiness, it's a good time to call a professional.

If a student is experiencing anxiety in the classroom or hallway, what coping skills could they try?

It's good for all children to have some coping skills that they already know and can use if needed. So I would say, first and foremost, these are things to practice beforehand. It's really hard to learn a new skill in the moment when we're really anxious. It's most helpful if children have a toolbox of different skills they can use because what works for me may not work for you. And what works for me on Tuesday might not work for me on Wednesday. So it's good to have a lot of options. Different children will do better with different skills. Some that might be helpful in the classroom or hallway includes knowing that they can go and talk to a teacher and ask for what they need. Do they need space? Do they need support? Knowing who else they can go talk to or ask for–who are the identified people, a counselor, a nurse, maybe there's a certain person in the school who they feel particularly comfortable with.

Deep breathing or belly breathing, it's really easy to learn. It's a really simple distraction. 

They can acknowledge that they're having this thought, but pull that thought away and focus on what’s safe around them and what they can do to be safe. So using self-talk to say, “Okay, I'm feeling worried, but let me go through my mental checklist. I'm wearing my mask. I just washed my hands. We're keeping our space. So I think I'm safe.” It's helpful to have a worry plan in advance. 

Parents are wearing so many different hats, parent/teacher, employee, child therapist, how can a guardian manage their own wellbeing while helping make sure their child's emotional needs are met? 

It is insanity for most of us, if not all of us. Professional me and mom me are definitely two separate entities. And while professional me can sit here and tell you all of these things and make them sound good. Mom me is freaking out all the time, bursting into tears with my friends on the phone, hyperventilating inside. I call my friends who are therapists often and let them talk me down. I say this because I think just exercising self-compassion and recognizing how difficult this is on all of us is just one of the most important things. Like our children, we need good sleep, good diet, exercise, fresh air. We can't sacrifice ourselves for them. We need all of those things too. And the better we take care of ourselves, we're better for them. Exercise the same compassion to yourself that you offer to your children. You're going to have good days and bad days, and try not to beat yourself up. We, especially moms, are so programmed to beat ourselves up. It doesn't help and we don't deserve it. We're all just doing our best.

What resources are out there?

If you go to PBS.org/parents, there's some good information on there, mostly for younger kids, but really I think the tips can be applied broadly as well. They have a section in there just on COVID and going back to school. The American Psychological Association, APA.org, has a lot of good information right now, too. There's a lot of good self-help workbooks for children and teens out there. A couple that I'll mention for children, there's one called “The Worry Workbook for Kids” by Deborah Ledley and Muniya Khanna. There's one out there called “Anxiety Relief for Teens” by Regine Galanti. These are just books that have exercises that your teen or child can do or you can do with them to help teach coping skills for anxiety. Also, reaching out to the school counselor is an excellent, excellent idea and a wonderful resource. They can help support your child in school and connect you with outside resources.

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