An Italian teacher and administrator in northwest suburban High School District 214, Angela Briguglio Hawkins was known as “the American” when she was growing up in Sicily.
That’s because she was born in Oak Park, but her parents decided to move the family back to their native Sicily when Briguglio Hawkins was two-and-a-half years old. They missed their relatives.
“I did all my schooling in Italy, up until the equivalent of the first year in high school,” she says. “But then my dad was worried about the lack of economic opportunity in Europe, so my parents moved back to give me a better future.”
She was 15 when they returned in 1998, but she had picked up not only Italian, but German and French while living in Europe.
That gave her an excellent background to start teaching Italian at District 214 high schools in 2006, after earning a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Northeastern Illinois University. About five years ago, she also earned a master’s degree in educational administration and a Type 75 (administrative) certification from Concordia University.
To boost her educational level even further, she is working on a second master’s degree in curriculum and instruction with a focus on English Language Learners.
All that education paid off last July, when District 214 promoted her to division head of Social Science, World Languages and English Language Learners. In that position, she hires personnel, observes teachers, gives summative evaluations and performs management functions.
She is one of five division heads at Wheeling High School, and there are similar division heads at the other five District 214 high schools.
She describes the job as being the “vision head” of the department, working with teachers on professional development, and innovating and being creative in the classroom.
“What I like about administration is that I’m helping teachers support their students — you can’t do that without somebody else helping you,’ she says.
She’s also thankful she still gets to conduct one class in AP Italian, because she loves teaching.
“It’s so nice being able to observe other teachers,” she comments. “You get ideas for your own teaching. We have a great department with amazing teachers that care about their students.”
She has experience with being an English Language Learner herself. When her family returned from Italy to Chicago when she was 15, she was placed in the freshman class at Ridgewood High School in Norridge, even though her age and schooling would have placed her as a sophomore, because she didn’t speak English.
She had a passion for learning it, though, and says she picked it up within six months. She also took Italian classes taught by Dolores Pigoni Miller, who became a mentor.
“It was nice that someone understood me,” Briguglio Hawkins explains.
She also picked up a better command of Italian language and grammar, paving the way for her eventual teaching career.
Naturally, she’s a big proponent of studying foreign languages.
“Studies have shown it helps students with standardized testing, because there are words you might not commonly use in English that are used in foreign languages.”
Students who study a language also learn about the culture, which she feels is helpful in teaching them about the larger world.
Briguglio Hawkins is married to a Chicago Police sergeant, and they have a five-year-old, a three-year-old and a three-month-old baby. She has taken her husband back to Italy to see her native land, and has also taken students on trips there when she had her own classroom.
“Learning a language is something that goes with you,” she says. “You have it for a lifetime.”