Cooperation in classroom is key for Suraci

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Italian teacher Francesca Tinnirello Suraci says the key to being an effective educator is to let your passion show.

“You have to show how passionate you are about something, through your energy and your love for the subject,” Suraci says. “Those are the teachers that made the most impact on me.”

Her Italian high school teacher, Dorina Spiering, was a great inspiration, says Suraci, a board member for the Midwest Chapter of the American Association of Teachers of Italian. “She was such a passionate, bubbly person. I had never seen such a passion in a person,” she says, adding the two still keep in touch.

Suraci teaches Italian at Jay Stream Middle School in Carol Stream. Because there are relatively few middle schools that offer Italian classes, “I always tell my students how fortunate they are,” she says. At Jay Stream, 6th graders are required to take one quarter each of Italian, French, Spanish and Chinese, and then can elect to continue studying a language in 7th and 8th grades, she explains.

Suraci lives in Oak Brook with her husband, Saverio Suraci, and their children: Emma, 18 months, and Leonardo, 5.

Her parents immigrated from Sicily and met in the United States, raising her and her older brother with Italian as their first language. Both siblings married spouses from Italy and now speak Italian to their own children. “We live in an Italian bubble,” she says.

Suraci studied education and Italian at Dominican University in River Forest and met her husband in a computer lab while she was studying abroad in Milan, Italy. The couple got married in 2015.

Suraci has a master’s degree in education from the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan. Her first teaching job was at Sayre Language Academy, part of Chicago Public Schools, followed by a stint at an international school in Milan. At one point, she and her husband moved to Ohio to pursue a job opportunity for him, while she worked as an English as a second language teacher and coordinator.

In Ohio, Suraci became a fan of cooperative learning, an educational model based on students learning together in small groups and in a way that everyone’s success is tied to the success of the group.

“Cooperative learning can be applied to any subject,” she explains. “I really like to use it for my foreign language classroom, because there are a lot of opportunities to talk to each other, and to work together on writing and reading and vocabulary.”

The Suracis moved back to Illinois in 2017, and she has been working at Community Consolidated School District 93 ever since.

“Being an educator is not just about the subject matter that you teach. There are so many more jobs that it entails,” she says. “Students need that support system, and you have to gain their trust, show that you care about them. It’s more than the actual subject.”

For now, Suraci says, she’s not thinking of future plans, but rather focusing on finding a balance between being a teacher and a mom. Meanwhile, she looks forward to traveling with her family to Italy every summer to spend time with relatives, refresh her language skills and explore the country. “All of Italy is so beautiful, and there is so much to see.”


About Elena Ferrarin

Elena Ferrarin is a native of Rome who has worked as a journalist in the United States since 2002. She has been a correspondent for Fra Noi for more than a decade. She previously worked as a reporter for The Daily Herald in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, The Regional News in Palos Heights and as a reporter/assistant editor for Reflejos, a Spanish-English newspaper in Arlington Heights. She has a bachelor’s degree from Brown University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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