South Middle School instructor Lisa Sasso

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Lisa Sasso
Lisa Sasso
Long before Fra Noi singled out Lisa Sasso as worthy of coverage for her efforts as an Italian teacher at South Middle School in Arlington Heights, Sasso say that Fra Noi played a role in helping her teaching dreams come true.

“My father gave me an article he saw in Fra Noi about how the Italian government, along with a non-profit group called Italidea, was giving grants to American schools that started Italian programs,” Sasso recalls. ” I brought the information to my principal and she let me apply for the grant and the next school year, I started the program.”

Since kicking off in 2002, Sasso has grown South’s program from 40 students to 175, making Italian the school’s second most popular language offering. “Our program has had success due to the close relationship we have with our high school programs,” Sasso says. “We have Italian exchange students that visit our school each year. This program is through Prospect High School, and many of my former students have traveled to Italy as a part of their program.” Over Spring Break 2013, some of Sasso’s former students went to Italy with Rolling Meadows High School.

For Sasso, the love of languages dates to her teenage years. At 17, she studied in France for a summer, and then went to visit relatives in Italy, in Le Marche and Abruzzo. “After that visit, I knew I needed to learn Italian,” she recalls.

Sasso attended Georgetown University, where she majored in Italian and minored in French; she studied part of the time in Florence and went to live with her Italian relatives when the program finished.

“I feel so fortunate to be teaching a language I love and a culture that defines me,” Sasso says. “My enthusiasm is evident and that is one of the many reasons students want to take this language.” She also keeps the language alive, and lively, by using different games, activities and technology to engage students.

“The Internet also provides me with authentic cultural information that gives my students current exposure to the culture,” she adds. “We watch TV shows, music videos and YouTube videos so my students are up to date with the language.”

Still, all of this wouldn’t be effective with practice, and lots of it. “Students have to use the language in authentic situations so that they will be prepared when they eventually travel to the country,” Sasso says.

It’s her hope that those middle school students entering their teens will discover with full force the joy and wonder of Italian, just as Sasso did at age 17. “My personal goal is to ignite the desire in my students to continue studying Italian in high school — and eventually visit and experience, “La Dolce Vita,” she says.

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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