A coeducational day school serving students JK-12

Latin Learner Podcast logo L with radio waves

The Latin Learner Podcast

What can you learn in less than 10 minutes?

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.

Discover More Episodes

The Science Behind the COVID-19 Vaccine



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.

How does the COVID-19 vaccine work in our body?

The two COVID-19 vaccines that have received the emergency use authorization are a special type of vaccine known as mRNA vaccines. These vaccines deliver a genetic code, the mRNA, or messenger RNA that teaches your cells to make the spike protein of the COVID-19 virus. That spike protein is what we see in pictures that the coronavirus is sticking out on the surface. It forms sort of a crown around the virus, and crown interestingly translates to corona, which is how the coronavirus gets its name. It's the part of the virus that allows it to attach and to enter into our cells. So it's a really important target. So on its own that spike protein in our body is harmless and it does not cause COVID-19 disease. But once that messenger RNA teaches ourselves to make the spike protein it's broken down, it's gone. However, the body now recognizes this newly created spike protein as foreign, and the body begins to create a defense or an immune response against it. And this is how vaccines work. So this response is boosted by that second dose and the two-dose vaccine series in about two weeks after receiving that second dose, the efficacy of the vaccine's protection against COVID-19 disease is about 95%. The body has been taught to recognize this important spike protein on the virus and attack it, neutralize the virus if it sees it. 

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

So each vaccine was studied in tens of thousands of people in the third phase of the vaccine trials. So in addition to seeing the vaccine protected against COVID-19 infection, the researchers followed all of the study participants to assess for vaccine reactions and side effects. And the vaccines were found to be very safe. The vaccine manufacturers then presented this phase three data to the FDA in order to receive the emergency use authorization. So even though the vaccines have received that EUA manufacturers continue to follow the study participants and all the data gathered will be reviewed again. When the manufacturer is applied for full licensing from FDA. Safety data also continues to be collected in several different ways now that we have vaccines that are widely distributed and used. 

Have there been any allergic reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine?

So there have been rare instances of allergic reactions to the vaccine and people with a history of certain types of severe allergies. To address this, each person is administered a series of questions before receiving the vaccine to detect any history of allergies. And in addition, each person is monitored for a minimum of 15 minutes following receipt of the vaccine. And administrators have been, and are, prepared to immediately and effectively respond to these rare allergic reactions should they occur. 

What are the differences between the Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna vaccine?

So there are two vaccines that have received emergency use authorization, the Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna vaccine. So both of these vaccines use the same mRNA technique for generating an immune response. The main differences are in the details of the manufacturing process. The Pfizer vaccine has more stringent storage requirements. Also, the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine is administered three weeks after the first dose and for the Moderna vaccine, the second dose is administered four weeks after the first dose. Studies of the vaccine show that each vaccine has approximately 94-95% efficacy against COVID-19 disease. 

What are the common side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine?

The most common side effect is soreness at the site of injection. Other side effects might include fatigue, headache, muscle aches, chills, joint pain, possibly a little fever, but these side effects generally indicate your body's developing an immune response to the vaccine, so that's good. Many people will not experience any side effects, but that does not mean the body is not hard at work at developing immunity. Side effects usually last 24-48 hours, no more than a few days. And the more frequent after the second dose in the vaccine trials. 

How can we be confident in a safe vaccine that was developed within a year? 

So the federal government provided significant funding to enable vaccine manufacturing. This allowed the companies to move several paces ahead with planning while maintaining the appropriate steps in the scientific process. There were no shortcuts in the science. It became clear very quickly whether or not the vaccine protected against disease. And it did.
Dr. Leslie Cordes, Latin's Senior Medical Consultant
Frankly, the fast pace with which the disease spread allowed researchers to gather data right away. It became clear very quickly whether or not the vaccine protected against disease. And it did. Also, research institutions used as existing collaborations and many were networks that had been forged to work together on HIV research. And they pivoted to work on all aspects of COVID-19, including research, instrumental to developing vaccines. And advances in technology helped as well. The genetic code of the virus was determined and shared early on, allowing for global research to begin. And all the methods that have been developed for previous epidemics and pandemics were put to use for COVID-19. All these factors together brought us to where we are today. 

What is emergency use authorization or EUA? 

When we're faced with a public health emergency, as we are with the COVID-19 pandemic, the public health community has to come together and quickly assess the challenges and opportunities available. The SARS-CoV-2 virus, the cause of the COVID-19 disease, is a novel or a new virus. We had no special medicines or vaccines available at the onset of the pandemic. The FDA's EUA process allows scientists to develop and study medicines and vaccines that could be helpful. And it provides an expedited review process, weighing the risks of the disease and the potential risks and benefits of the proposed therapeutic. So the process for obtaining an EUA is rigorous and researchers must present data that meets scientific standards. The application is then reviewed by an independent board of experts before the EUA is released. 

What benefits will I get after I get the vaccine? Will I still need to wear a mask and follow all these restrictions? 

While we're certainly ready to get back to a sort of a “normal life,” even those who are vaccinated will need to continue the same measures that are in place currently. Even Even though the vaccine is about 95% effective, that still means about one in 20 people who get it will not have protection from getting the illness.
Dr. Leslie Cordes, Latin's Senior Medical Consultant
though the vaccine is about 95% effective, that still means about one in 20 people who get it will not have protection from getting the illness. So we will ask those who get the vaccine to continue with the masking, distancing and cleaning that we've emphasized since we started school in the fall. As we move ahead with vaccination and gathered data on the trajectory of the pandemic, we'll adjust a recommendation as indicated, but we're not there yet. 

If someone's vaccinated, can they still pass the disease on to an unvaccinated person? 

So it's a great question. And we're still gathering data on that. We know the vaccines, very good at projecting the recipient from COVID-19 disease, but we just don't know enough yet to confidently state that it also protects against transmission. So for the time being, we're instructing those who have been vaccinated to follow all the mitigation measures of masking and distancing. It's important to have data drive those decisions since we don't want to make any recommendations that would lead to increased transmission. 

What about the case where someone's already had the COVID-19 disease? Should they be vaccinated?

And that's another great question. And the answer is yes. Get the vaccine. We really don't know how long the protection developed by natural infection will last. And we don't honestly have terrific ways to measure that protection, but we do know that it's safe to vaccinate people who have had the disease. 

Are we at the point yet where we can start talking about vaccinating kids? 

While the FDA has authorized the Pfizer vaccine for distribution to individuals as young as 16, but no COVID vaccine has been authorized for children under the age of 16. There's at least one trial that's right now enrolling kids between the ages of 12 and 18 with their parent's permission. It might be not until the end of this year, possibly even next year, before we have enough evidence on the timing, the safety, the effectiveness, and really the practical aspects of vaccinating kids for coronavirus, especially if we're going to be considering kids under the age of 12. 

What risks do I take on if I choose not to be vaccinated? 

The risks of not vaccinating include all the risks of acquiring COVID-19 disease, including the possibility of prolonged symptoms. 

So where can I go to get reliable resources for my questions on the vaccine? 

I would just generally direct you to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which you can access by www.cdc.gov


  • Around School
  • Podcast
Remote Learning Strategies for Middle School Students



Bobby Oommen teaches middle school computer science and is the eighth grade team leader. He has been at Latin since 2015. 

What did the middle school do in terms of remote learning preparation? 

We focused on one component of the GOA, Global Online Academy, learning to learn online course. And that was specifically, how do you organize your workspace at home? What does it look like and how do you remove the distractions? Secondly, we had different times throughout the first semester where we were trying to help the kids organize their digital selves. We've talked about Showbie, LMS, RomanNet, Gmail, etc. Now that so much of We had different times throughout the first semester where we were trying to help the kids organize their digital selves.
Bobby Oommen, Middle School Computer Science
your portfolio is online, how do you best organize your digital self? And going into the second semester, we're going to continue to give them opportunities to delete apps that you're not using, respond to emails, archive things, put things in folders that you're no longer in need of, unsubscribe to emails that are no use to you and are distracting you through the day. So organizing your digital self is one of the big things that we talk about–really emphasizing the established routines, using Calendly for appointments, most of us use Showbie, and then again, continuing to use their planner. That's what we did as far as preparation and going into remote learning.

How can remote learning help us learn about our students?

Remote learning provided additional data points regarding students and their task understanding, their task initiation and their task follow through.
Bobby Oommen, Middle School Computer Science

Middle school is many things, right. But I also like to think of it as a collection of data points. Remote learning provided additional data points regarding students and their task understanding, their task initiation and their task follow through. It also provided data points for emotional and physical wellness. So when I say data points, that may be a little bit, you know, what is he really referring to? I'm talking about both qualitative and quantitative data points. 

How are you using these data points with the students?

We're going to be encouraging the eighth graders to do this second semester. And I'm hoping that for other grade levels that your students can start to be thinking about this. We're trying to get the eighth graders to use those data points to create self-reflection questions. So for example, regarding task understanding–“do I participate in class?; what do I do when I don't understand something?”–really getting them to think about where am I as a student in regards to task understanding. In regards to task initiation, getting the middle schoolers as a whole to say like, “all right, when the teacher gives me a task, do I set meetings with teachers?; what's preventing me from doing so?; when I get an assignment and I don't need to meet with a teacher, am I initiating it?; when?; do I wait till the last minute?” It’s like getting kids to think about themselves as learners. And then finally one question that they could ask for task follow-through is like, “do I turn assignments in?; is there a gap between me finishing an assignment and then submitting it?; what's blocking me from doing that?” We think it's super important, especially to help them reflect... 

How can I encourage my child to use these data points and ask themselves these questions?

Is this child, is this student ready to transition successfully to high school? There is a fine line between helping your child develop the skills they need and over helping, right? What also confuses that fine line is that at a certain point, they don't want to hear your helpful feedback, right? Like that's just part of the journey of middle school and there are kids along the different spectrum of that. So there's that fine line of like equipping them. I would just encourage us as parents to take your observations, your data points from remote learning. When you look at your child, where are they in terms of task understanding? Do they understand what's assigned to them? Where is your child in regards to task initiation? Do you see them regularly setting meetings with teachers? Do you see issues or roadblocks for them? What are those roadblocks? Do you see them following through on tasks? If not, what's preventing them from doing so? If they are, how can you encourage that more? Taking your observations as parents from remote learning, because you see behind the scenes the things that we as teachers can't see, and using those to form questions. Hey, so-and-so uh, how are you, how was class today? How'd you participate? Do you raise your hand at all? Yeah, no, you didn't. What's preventing you from doing so? For me personally, I have found just in asking those questions rather than telling my kids what to do. I find out some of my kids have social anxiety and it doesn't take place in the classroom, but it takes place being online or another one of my kids kind of switched and vice versa. We're going to use those remote learning takeaways as a team to help formulate what we need to do to best transition kids to high school. Hopefully, there are some pieces there that you already are doing, but maybe there are some you could use as well as we continue and finish up the second semester. 


  • Academics
  • Around School
  • middle school
  • Podcast
"The Queen's Gambit" Executive Producer on Life After Latin



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. 



  • Alumni
  • Our Voices
  • Podcast
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.

  • Podcast