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Language Profiles

Maine Township instructor Toni Campisciano Ungaro

In her fourth year at Maine East and Maine West High Schools in District 207, Toni Campisciano Ungaro has both the academic and ethnic credentials to make her a leader in language instruction. The child of Sicilian parents, Campsciano Ungaro has a refreshing approach to teaching Italian: “Learning a language has to be fun, relevant and engaging,” she says. “My teaching methods are varied in order to reach all students. Whether it’s cooperative learning, a CRISS strategy or a fun learning game, students do many different things in my classroom to practice their language skills and show me what they ...

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Maine South Instructor Cristina Modica

For those fortunate enough to grow up in America speaking Italian, it often becomes a mission to share the language with kids in your own backyard. Just ask Cristina Modica, who teaches Italian at Main South High School District 207 in Park Ridge. “My parents were both born in Italy in a small town, Castel San Vincenzo in the region of Molise,” says Modica, whose maiden name is Marzullo. “My mother was 27 when she moved here and didn’t speak English; I learned Italian before English. I’ve always spoken Italian and was raised in the Italian culture. It’s an integral ...

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Ridgewood High instructor Dolores Pigoni-Miller

When Dolores Pigoni-Miller steps into class at Ridgewood High School in Norridge, she’s not just teaching Italian, but honoring her own bloodline. “My parents, Anna and Romolo Pigoni, came from the same town in northwest Toscana,” she says. “I think Ceserano is one of the most beautiful places in the world. It’s an ancient town that sits at the foot of the Apennines.” And from there, you can see the slopes, not far from the Cinque Terre, where Michelangelo quarried marble for his masterpieces. It’s only fitting, then, that Pigoni-Miller teaches Italian to her 120 students as though it were ...

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Loyola University instructor Anna Clara Ionta

Anna Clara Ionta signs all her emails in Italian, with the words of French socialist leader Jean Jeaurès. Translated into English, the signoff reads:”We do not teach what we want to; actually, we do not teach at all what we know/ Or what we think we know: We can only teach what we are.” It’s a fitting motto for a remarkable woman who has taught Italian at Loyola University Chicago since 1987 — she started as a visiting lecturer sponsored by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Readers may recall Ionta as Fra Noi’s Italian editor for three years; she ...

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Fenwick High School instructor Noreen Moore

When Noreen Moore started the Italian language program at Fenwick High School in Oak Park, she had enough students to fill one classroom — 30, to be precise — taking Italian 1. Just as those first students grew in the language, so did the Fenwick program, which today has two full-time teachers, including Moore, and serves between 130 and 180 students across four grade levels and an advanced placement program. “We’re up and down depending on the year, but we’ve always been over 100 students taking Italian on all four levels,” says Moore. “And just year, they asked me to ...

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South Middle School instructor Lisa Sasso

Long before Fra Noi singled out Lisa Sasso as worthy of coverage for her efforts as an Italian teacher at South Middle School in Arlington Heights, Sasso say that Fra Noi played a role in helping her teaching dreams come true. “My father gave me an article he saw in Fra Noi about how the Italian government, along with a non-profit group called Italidea, was giving grants to American schools that started Italian programs,” Sasso recalls. ” I brought the information to my principal and she let me apply for the grant and the next school year, I started the ...

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Dominican University Professor Tonia Bernardi Triggiano

In the world of Italian language education, it’s funny how the love of learning gets around. In a previous issue, we featured Noreen Moore, who started the Italian program at Fenwick High School in Oak Park. Prior to that, Moore taught Italian at Mother Guerin High School — where she inspired a student named Tonia Bernardi. Tonia went on to doctorate studies at the University of Wisconsin and then taught Italian at Dominican University — all while raising a family. Today she goes by Tonia Bernardi Triggiano and her adjunct gig, which began in 1995, turned into a full-time position ...

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Prospect High teacher Lyn Scolaro

If Prospect High School Italian teacher Lyn Scolaro captures any more awards in the next few months, she’s going to need a bigger wall in her office. Having just won the 2012 Distinguished Service Award from the American Association of Teachers of Italian, she’s also been named an Arlington Heights Hearts of Gold Educator of the Year for 2013. Her parents, Mary and Attilio Scolaro, both have roots in the Veneto region. “My Italian teacher Ines Turus inspired me — and she was from the Veneto region, too,” Scolaro recalls. “She taught me things I never thought I’d learn, and ...

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St. Raymond School instructor Marina Politzer

Every time Marina Politzer steps into the classroom at St. Raymond School in Mt. Prospect, she can identify with the students who work hard to tackle Italian. That’s because as a native of Yugoslavia (with very interesting Italian roots), Politzer had to learn English as a second language. So she strives to give the 400 pupils in grades preK-5 her very best — and some melody to boot. “I’m always looking for ways to make it fun,” says Politzer, who started at St. Raymond in February 2009. “Kids have a short attention span and aren’t very motivated or focused, so ...

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Maine South teacher M. Stella Weber

Picture this: You grow up dreaming of becoming an opera singer, but your Italian parents have other ideas — drastic ones — that start with a one-way trip to a convent. “My father said, ‘No daughter of mine is going out and singing in a heavily male atmosphere,'” recalls M. Stella Weber. My parents were threatening to send me to Italy to become a nun. I was so scared since my mother had a cousin who was a nun. I thought my goose was cooked.” Instead, Weber took the music in her voice and channeled it into the Italian language, ...

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