Italian Professional Development in its Eighth Year at Montclair State

Dec 05, 2015 1911

by Enza Antenos

When it comes to Italian professional development, the annual Teaching Italian Symposium-Workshop at Montclair State University is where it's at. On October 23rd, the Coccia Institute and the Italian program of the Department of Spanish and Italian hosted its annual symposium, Imparando giocando, dedicated to games and play in the language classroom. In its eighth year, under the direction of Enza Antenos, Symposium Chair, and Mary Ann Re, Director of the Coccia Institute, Teaching Italian demonstrates sustainability, longevity, and commitment to those dedicated to advancing and preserving Italian language and culture.

In 2008, the Coccia Institute inaugurated the first Teaching Italian program dedicated to the writing skill. The organic evolution of topics covered in subsequent symposia were speaking, technology, the AP exam, culture, film, literature, and most recently games. The success of this program has surpassed the original vision for teachers of Italian in New Jersey; it is a national program that no longer has geographical boundaries, with participants attending from as far as California.

This year's symposium focused on games and play and emphasized how fun and risk-taking in the classroom can create meaningful learning opportunities for our students. Keynote speaker Dr. Julie Sykes of the Center for Applied Second Language Studies at the University of Oregon, discussed the past, present and future of games and play in language learning. An interactive panel discussion, Students at Play, engaged panelists, Drs. Anthony Mollica (Emeritus, Brock University, Canada), Tom Means (Borough of Manhattan Community College), Julie Sykes, Nicola McGill (Far Hills Country Day School), and the audience in best practices based in sound pedagogy. The workshops, a hands-on collaborative development of teaching materials, offered participants opportunities to reflect and engage on the role of play in teaching Italian.

The Coccia-Inserra Award for Excellence and Innovation in the Teaching of Italian (K-12) was awarded to Raffaella Spilotro of Oak Park, IL. This $5,000 prize will be used to advance Italian language and culture curriculum and programming at Oak Park and River Forest High School. We are profoundly grateful for the generosity of both Coccia Foundation and Lawrence R. Inserra, Jr. for recognizing and supporting Italian language and culture educators.

"Every event at MSU I feel re-born. The energy and synergy from these cultural and learning events are unparalleled," praised Louis Gorgi Thomas, a regular participant at these symposia-workshops. He, like many other teachers, is a repeat customer. Approximately 25% of the attendees of the symposia have attended at least three of them, with 10% of teachers attending annually. Clearly, Italian professional development has found a permanent home at Montclair State. "The program you provide annually is important for Italian teachers," asserts Elisabetta Bertin. "Other languages have had to cut professional development for their teachers. We are fortunate in Italian that every year we can count on the symposium. Keep up the great work!"

"In times when enrollment numbers are dropping, when reports remind us that foreign language education, as the Humanities in general, are 'soft' yet important skills needed for success, Italian programs and their teachers are even more driven to ensure that Italian continues to be viable, pertinent and accessible to all students across the nation. And teachers are successful," affirms Antenos. "Success can be measured by the development of new Italian programs and the growth of others, the reinstatement of the Italian AP exam, with the number of participants exceeding expectations! This is thanks in large part to the teachers who have built and contributed to Italian programs at their schools. It is for these teachers that the Teaching Italian Symposium-Workshop was commenced and because of them that it has flourished and continues to be pertinent and in high demand."

We at Montclair State are very fortunate to host this signature event with the support of the Joseph and Elda Coccia Institute for the Italian Experience in America and look forward to the next symposium. Save the date: Teaching Italian IX (TI9) will be Friday, October 28, 2016.

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