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Fox Lane High School’s Raffaella Pirone Wins National Italian Teaching Award

Italian teaching award winner Raffaella Pirone with FLHS World Language coordinator Magaly Reluzco

Fox Lane High School Italian teacher Raffaella Pirone recently became the first teacher from New York to receive the national Coccia-Inserra Award for Excellence and Innovation in the Teaching of Italian (K-12). 

“This annual prestigious recognition of outstanding and creative teaching is funded by Coccia Foundation and the Inserra families under the auspices of the Coccia Institute,” said Dr. Mary Ann Re, Director of the Coccia Institute for the Italian Experience in America at Montclair State University. “The candidates are evaluated and the recipient selected by a distinguished panel of judges in Italian language pedagogy from across the country, as well as in Italy. Brava, Raffaella, and the excellent administration that supports you! The competition was formidable.”

Pirone accepted the award on October 25 at the annual Teaching Italian Symposium-Workshops organized by the Coccia Institute and the Italian faculty of Montclair State University’s Department of Modern Languages and Literatures. Fox Lane High School’s World Language Coordinator, Magaly Reluzco, accompanied Pirone to the event.

“There were so many eligible people, for her to be the one person selected was pretty awesome,” Reluzco said of Pirone’s honor. “It was very cool to see one of our teachers get up there.”

In addition to the recognition of her teaching prowess, Pirone was awarded $5000. Half is to be spent on her professional development at an accredited institution, while the remaining $2500 is to be used for enrichment activities for students of Italian.

The award came as a surprise to Pirone, who had applied for it in the past and not been selected. After the Institute encouraged her to apply again, Pirone added more supporting material to the extensive application, which included video, lesson plans, letters of recommendation and more.

“I’m very honored,” Pirone said. “It just takes the initiative to try. I’ve been going to this Symposium for at least ten years now. Every year, I see a teacher win and I thought ‘I’m going to try. Why not?’”

Administrators and fellow staff members were not surprised that Pirone was chosen.

“Some of us have long known how wonderful a teacher of Italian she is,” said acting Superintendent Joel Adelberg. “It is so terrific to see her receive such well-deserved recognition by our profession and academia beyond our school district.”

“To be the first honoree from New York State is a truly incredible accomplishment that speaks to her passion and commitment to bringing the beauty of the Italian language to our students,” said Fox Lane High School Principal Brett Miller. “We are so proud of her!”

Pirone, who is from Rome, has always wanted to be a teacher.

“In Italy, I studied to become a Latin and Ancient Greek teacher. I planned to stay in Italy and work in a high school,” Pirone said. “When I moved to the United States, I taught Latin for a little while but living here and being a teacher and Italian, it makes more sense to teach Italian. I feel like I can share my culture too.”

Pirone’s emphasis on Italian culture in her classes was one of the strengths identified by the judges who chose her for the award. Not surprisingly, she plans to use much of the award money to continue that emphasis.