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Prospect High teacher Lyn Scolaro

Lyn Scolaro

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 that taught me how teachers can inspire students.”

Now 30 years into her career and thousands of students later, Scolaro has lived all her dreams, and then some. She runs an acclaimed student exchange program with students from Verona, and has grown the Italian language rolls at Prospect by leaps in bounds. In 1991, when she was hired to teach Italian there, only 42 students were enrolled in her Italian classes. Enrollment in Italian grew within the first three years of her teaching and today about 250 students are enrolled in Italian.

“Anyone who teaches a world language, you have to have a passion for the culture and the diversity,” Scolero says. “We have this inner passion within us as Italians because we live it. And for 30 years, I’ve been showing it to my students, by either taking them to cultural events in the city, or on trips to Italy.” She organized and escorted 12 student tours to Italy every other summer from 1995 to 2006, and since then established, organized and escorted five 10-day exchanges in Verona with the Liceo Scientifico Copernico.

She’s also seen changes in her student body since leading Italian classes at Mother Guerin High School, her first assignment. “Back then, it was Italian kids who had either visited family in Italy or already spoke a dialect, maybe 60 percent,” she recalls. “But in the last 15 years, it’s been more a case of the whole community buying into this.”

It’s also a case of Scolero, who lives in Rolling Meadows, making Italian relevant by linking it to the larger arc of Italian culture. “Kids find the things they like�fashion, cars, music, architecture–and see a connection between that and the language, and they get excited,” she says.

So do the people who know her work. In nominating Scolero for the AATI award, University of Arizona adjunct instructor Beatrice D’Arpa wrote: “Her fascination for the Italian language and culture, along with a sense of academic sophistication, are evidence that Lyn is focused on her goals, and is interested in looking beyond what is best for District 214 where she teaches.”

Now all she has to do is finish another awards acceptance speech. Asked how she’ll approach it, she joked: “Well, I’d be more comfortable if I were giving it in Italian.”

About Lou Carlozo

A former longtime staff writer, editor and columnist for the Chicago Tribune, Lou Carlozo is a personal finance contributor to Reuters and the proud writer of Fra Noi's Lou&A column, which spotlights important Italian Americans. He is currently studying for his master's degree at National-Louis University, where he teaches journalism and writing on the graduate school level. He also writes for the Tribune Content Agency and a variety of other freelance outlets including DealNews, Money Under 30 and Yesware. He lives in the North Center neighborhood of Chicago with his wife of more than 17 years, Amy (a hospice chaplain), and two children.