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Italian TA Sankara Kasanje.

Senior Italian Language and Culture major hopes teaching Italian at Parkdale HS will lead him to Italy next spring. 

One Bachelor of Arts in Romance Languages and a minor in Italian Language and Culture was not enough for Sankara Kasanje, who graduated in 2013 only to enroll again as an undergraduate the next fall. Now he is a senior pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Italian Studies. After completing his Romance Languages requirements in French and Spanish, he was interested in the Master’s Certification Program (MCERT) at the UMD College of Education, but he realized too late that the application deadline into the program had passed. Instead of waiting until the following year, he decided to return to UMD as an undergraduate and develop his Italian minor into the full bachelor’s degree. “I wanted to make myself more marketable, more prepared professionally,” Kasanje said. After completing the second bachelor’s in Italian, he plans to pursue the master’s certification in teaching.

As a requirement for his Italian minor, Kasanje took ITAL301, Italian Composition, with Italian lecturer Margherita Morando. She informed him about a new internship possibility for foreign language students, and Italian speakers in particular, who demonstrated facility with the language and were interested in teaching at a high-school level. Kasanje holds an associate degree in education, so he already had some experience in the classroom. “I’ve always had an interest in teaching, even though I wasn’t really sure what route I was going to go with foreign languages,” Kasanje said.

Parkdale High School in Riverdale, MD, is the first public school in the region to offer a course in Italian. Kasanje is a teacher’s aid, so his tasks usually entail lesson preparation and grading, but he does occasionally lead class activities. The lessons themselves are 80 minutes long, so Kasanje stresses the importance of being “pretty thorough” in terms of planning. “You have to have a plan b,” Kasanje said, adding that “time management is essential.” Kansaje typically begins with a warm-up, before introducing a series of several different exercises involving listening or writing.  He also likes to include an interactive or technology-based element, like a movie or a song in Italian. Such techniques are crucial to keep the 9th and 10th graders motivated and attentive. “I learned from my mistake in my first lesson plan, and while the activity was really well organized and funny, I didn’t have enough variation,” Kasanje said. 

The lessons Kasanje is learning at Parkdale will serve him well in the future. Since the position as a teacher’s aid is only semester-long, Kasanje has big plans for the spring. A teaching internship in Peruggia, Italy, is “definitely my principal goal for next semester,” he said. He would enjoy any opportunity to travel overseas, but teaching in Italy would give him the perfect opportunity to combine his professional goals with the Italian language. “I still have to work out the particulars,” Kasanje said, but he remains optimistic for more adventures in 2014. 

Samantha Suplee ('14, Spanish Language & Literature and History)
SLLC Public Relations and Media Intern