Teacher of the Year Banquet
2009 6th Annual WisItalia Awards Dinner
By Rita Prigioni
On May 16, 2009, WisItalia held its 6th annual awards banquet dinner at the beautiful Roma Lodge in Racine, Wisconsin. View the program (pdf) for the evening, which started out with a welcome by Tony Bruno, WisItalia's president. Peter Barca, Chair of the Advisory Committee, was the Master of Ceremonies.
Special guest, Illinois Senator Renato Turano, gave much praise to the Roma Lodge for their beautiful building, saying it was a model for other Italian-American organizations in the United States.
Another special guest included Dr. Eleonora Cammareri, Director/Dirigente of the Ufficio Scolastico, Education Office of the Consulate General of Italy located in Chicago. Dr. Cammareri manages eleven States from Illinois to Colorado. She stressed the importance and value of teaching the Italian language and of the financial support given every year by the Italian Government, Ministry of Foreign Afffairs, Directorate General for the Italians Abroad Office (Direzione Generale per gli Italiani all'Estero Ufficio II), and the strong collaboration offered by the Ufficio Scolastico of the Consulate General of Italy to WisItalia and to the flourishing of the Italian language in schools. For instance, in 2008, WisItalia received $18,500 (12,500 Euros). During the previous years 2007, 2006, etc., WisItalia received approximately $13,500/$14,500 (10,000 Euros) each year, depending on the exchange rate. These are the funds that WisItalia, in turn, distributes to the schools and Italian language programs in Wisconsin.
WisItalia Teacher of the YearThis year, Dr. Giovanna Miceli Jeffries, WisItalia's Education Chair and Madison Representative, presented the Wisconsin Teacher of the Year Award to Enrica Tarantino-Woytal of Milwaukee. In her introductory remarks, Giovanna explained that her journey of immigrating, first to Canada and then to the United States, led her to a career in teaching Italian. Enrica emigrated from the Porticello region of Sicily to the United States in 1969 with her mother and brother. Her father was already here in the United States. At the time, Enrica could not speak English and French was her second language. In Giovanna's case, a few years before Enrica emigrated to the North America continent, she left Sicily with her family and settled in Montreal, Canada. French was also her second language. There, Giovanna immdiately started teaching Italian on Saturday mornings for children of Italian immigrants through a program that was founded by the Italian government, which ironically is still funding the same type of Italian language programs supported by WisItalia. That grant program was initially created by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to assist the second wave of Italian immigration (late 1950s and early 1960s) all over the world, including North Europe (i.e., Germany, Switzerland) in the eventuality that the immigrant families would return to Italy and, therefore, their children could be re-inserted in the Italian schools. It's amazing to see this aspect of continuity within countries, institutions and individuals, all targeted to the promotion and support of Italian.
In Enrica's situation, she has been teaching the Italian language for children, teens and adults for more than 20 years. She began teaching children Italian language classes in the early 1980s on Saturdays at the Italian Community Center (ICC) of Milwaukee. She later added classes for teens and adults. A unique aspect of Enrica's children Italian language classes is that they remain free of charge to the children enrolled in those classes. Additioanlly, she has been a regular participant in the ICC's Student Culture Day, presented twice a year where students, usually 4th-6th graders are exposed to Italian culture. Enrica gave her acceptance speech in both Italian and English. She emphasized that her mission was similar to WisItalia's mission in promoting the teaching of Italian. She expressed her hope that knowledge of the Italian language and culture would continue to spread like roots, with the desire that this continue through many generations.
Enrica is also the Editor of the Italian Page of the ICC's "The Italian Times" newspaper. Read the article (pdf) in "The Italian Times" written by Bob Ruggieri to learn more about Enrica's accomplishments.
WisItalia President's AwardRalph Annina, WisItalia's vice-president, presented its President's Award to Dr. Joseph Mangi for outstanding efforts and commitment to the promotion and teaching of the Italian language and culture in the Kenosha School District. Joe was instrumental in establishing the Italian programs at Bradford and Tremper High Schools, as well as promoting Italian at St. Joseph's Junior and Senior High Schools. Then in 2008, the citizens of Kenosha voted on a referendum to expand and renovate the current Indian Trail Academy to create a comprehensive high school. The addition to Indian Trail will include an academic classroom wing, music and physical education facilities, sports fields, a cafeteria, an auditorium and a field house (all of which the current school lacks). Joe indicated that Italian will also be taught as part of the curriculum. The new Indian Trail High School and Academy will open for ninth graders in 2010, with the remaining student body in 2011. Learn more about Joe's past accomplishments (pdf).
Special Recognition AwardsWisItalia gave two special recognition awards to Al Rolandi and Peter Barca, leaders of WisItalia, for their outstanding contribution to the dedication and commitment to the promotion of the teaching of Italian language and culture.
WisItalia 2009 Award WinnersGroup photo of the 2009 WisItalia Winners: Peter Barca, Joe Mangi, Enrica Tarantino-Woytal and Al Rolandi. Congratulazioni!
Donation from Roma LodgeIn March 2009, the Italian-American Club, Roma Lodge in Racine, made a $1,000 donation to WisItalia. Roma Lodge prides itself in giving to worthy causes within and around its community. Since WisItalia's mission statement is almost the same as the Roma Lodge mission statement, the Cares Committee recommended, and the Roma Lodge Board approved the donation. Making the presentation of the $1,000 check was Roma Lodge Past President, Don Cicero (WisItalia Racine Representative). Frank Alfano, WisItalia's treasurer accepted the donation on behalf of WisItalia.
Grazie to all the Guests!Thanks to all the guests who came to this wonderful event. It was an enjoyable evening: great food, great hospitality by the Roma Lodge men's and women's club members, great guests, and great award winners!
Online Web Album of EventHere's a sampling of the photos from this fun event. To see more photos, view the online web album or select the first photo in the group. Photos by Rita Prigioni, WisItalia's volunteer web master.
Past Teacher of the Year Recipients
- 2008 Pellegrina (Rina) Pignone-DeBartolo - Tremper High School, Kenosha
- 2007 Elizabeth Mitchell, Ph.D. - Trinity Academy High School, Pewaukee
- 2006 Ralph Annina - Bradford High School, Kenosha
- 2005 Alison Daneka Ferrentino - University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
- 2004 Giovanna Miceli Jeffries, Ph.D. - University of Wisconsin-Madison