Maine Township instructor Toni Campisciano Ungaro

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Toni Campisciano Ungaro
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 know.” (CRISS astounds for “creating independence through student-owned strategies.”)

A teacher of Spanish as well, Campsciano Ungaro is known to go to creative lengths to instill fervor for the language in her students. That could range from an immersion day for her upper-level pupils at DePaul University, to a field trip to Fra Noi’s headquarters to discuss the important role Italian Americans have played in our nation’s history. “While learning about regional Italian cooking, my Italian 2 students visit Canta Napoli Restaurant in Mount Prospect to learn about and enjoy traditional, Italian brick oven pizza,” she adds.

So what do you do for a second course? We have a thriving Italian Club at both East and West, and one of our Italian Club field trips was to an authentic gelateria in Chicago, Caffe Gelato,” she says. That place, she adds, “always reminds me of being in Sicily at the gelateria near my nonna’s house.”

Campsciano Ungaro’s enthusiasm for languages took hold while she attended DePaul. “My undergraduate professors Clara Orban and Gary Cestaro instilled in me the passion to pursue the study and teaching of the Italian language, literature and culture,” she says. Today, she teaches approximately 150 students; at Maine East, she’s solely responsible for the program and at Maine West Campsciano Ungaro is part of two-teacher team. Her experience is extensive, as she’s also taught at Addison Trail High School, Prospect High School, the University of Chicago as a graduate student and Loyola University Chicago as an adjunct faculty member.

She’s also made the news, when Main East hosted teachers and visitors from Pisa. Trib Local covered that event in 2010, and the enthusiasm students reflected in that piece was palpable, a sure sign that Campsciano Ungaro knows how to keep her charges on their toes.

“The challenging part of my job is keeping things new and exciting for the students,” says Campsciano Ungaro. “As a teacher, you have to find strategies that are effective yet engaging. I’m a lifelong learner, so while this is challenging at times, it is also something that I very much enjoy.”

To that end, the teacher gets a little help from her students: “I’m always impressed with the leadership and great ideas my students bring to the table to share their passion with others for the Italian language and culture.”

About Lou Carlozo

Lou Carlozo is award-winning journalist who spent 20 years reporting for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Chicago Tribune. He began writing for Fra Noi in 2007, and claims maternal and paternal southern Italian lineage. The monthly Lou&A columnist and a music reviewer/writer, his work has appeared in Reuters, Aol, The Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor and news outlets around the world. In 1993, he was a Pulitzer Prize team-reporting finalist for his contributions to the Tribune’s “Killing Our Children” series. He resides in Chicago with his wife of 21 years, a hospital chaplain, and their teenage son and daughter.

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