That, she adds, keeps her focused on doing her very best for the pupils of Notre Dame College Prep in north suburban Niles. “This is my second year at this school and I love it,” she says, placing extra emphasis on the word “love.”
“Being Italian has instilled such a passion in me for the Italian language and culture,” adds Longano Cimmarrusti, who has roots in Colle d’Anchise, province of Campobasso, in Italy’s Molise region.
“I was brought up in a tight Italian family, following the Italian traditions and customs,” she recalls. “My parents spoke Italian to me in the Molisano dialect all the time. I also had to speak Italian to communicate with my grandparents and cousins who did not speak English.”
In this way, she benefited from the inextricable bonds that connected language and love in many Italian families. Little doubt remained as to what she’d do with her life when she received her B.A. from the University of Illinois Chicago in Italian. She went on to earn a master’s in education at National-Louis University, and taught at Forest View High School and Elk Grove High School before coming to Notre Dame Prep.
Tireless in her efforts to make speaking Italian a vibrant, joyful experience, Longano Cimmarrusti certainly has her hands full at Notre Dame. She teaches Italian 1, 2 Honors, 3 and 3 Honors, and 4 Honors. “I also sponsor the Italian Club,” she says. “I’ve seen growth in the Italian program at Notre Dame since I started last year and I’m very proud of the students. ” (She also sends props to Ester Pullara, hired at the start of the school year to accommodate student demand for Italian courses.)
Having such rootedness in the language, it’s little surprise that Longano Cimmarrusti most enjoys real-life encounters with Italy and native speakers. To date, she’s taken more than 10 excursions to Italy with students, and has spearheaded two exchange programs — one with students of Udine and more recently one with students of Termini Imerese in Sicily.
“Having students of both Italy and the United States form such strong lasting bonds was one of the most gratifying experience I’ve had,” she says. “These students still keep in close contact and have visited each other since then.”
As for where Longano Cimmarrusti is headed, keep an eye out. Some of her students have pulled down top honors in state and national Italian contests, and she’s been awarded at various junctures in her teaching career for outstanding performance.
“The language and culture is a part of me,” she notes. “So hearing my students speak Italian gives me a great sense of satisfaction as a teacher.”