Meet the teacher: Federica Cologni, Teacher of Italian, Matthew Flinders Centre in Geelong
I’ve been at the VSL for eight years as an Italian teacher; before that I’d been a VSL student (Italian and Spanish) for three years and a language assistant (Italian) for one.
Lately I’ve been working on different ways to include ICT in my teaching as I think digital literacy is a necessary 21st century skill.
The most important thing I take into the classroom each week is energy. It can be hard for students to come to school on a Saturday morning so it’s important that I keep them motivated and enthusiastic. The group I am currently teaching ranges from years 7 to 12 and also includes adults. Ensuring that every single student is catered for requires a lot of energy and good time-management (on my part but also theirs).
What I love about language teaching is that it’s never the same. Each student is unique and has his/her own understanding of the world, so teaching is never boring nor repetitive. My second favourite thing is hearing from past students… a few of them have permanently relocated to Europe while others are on a gap year. Hearing about their adventures is always exciting and is a constant reminder that the world is a big place full of opportunities for today’s youth. Knowing an extra language can give you the edge.
My advice to parents is for them to encourage their kids to keep up their interest in language learning; even casually asking them about what they’re currently working on in class can do wonders for their motivation and enthusiasm. If you have the time, get your kids to teach you a couple of words in the language from time to time.
The book that changed my life… I don’t think I could choose just one book. I was an avid reader when I was at school as I found reading the best way to improve my English (I came to Australia at age 14). Orwell’s 1984, which I read at age 15, was probably the reason why I decided to study politics and international relations at university so I guess I could say that was quite significant. When I was younger and living in Italy my favourite book was called Il Grande Libro dei Perché (the Big Book of Whys). It taught me to question everything in life, be curious and always dig deeper.
The most inspirational figures in my life are my past teachers. They taught me to appreciate learning as a life-long journey and it is because I admired them so much that I eventually chose this profession. Of course not all of my teachers were great (I had some really bad ones too), but there were quite a few who made the difference with their patience, passion and dedication. Thankfully I am still in touch with them today.
The regional food I love best is casoncelli alla bergamasca. A casoncello is a ravioli-like dumpling stuffed with Grana Padano cheese, amaretti biscuits and a couple of other ingredients. Casoncelli are pan-fried with pancetta, butter and sage. They are a typical dish from my hometown Bergamo (40 Km NE of Milan) and are normally reserved for special occasions. My grandmother (nonna Lucia) makes them from scratch. However I also love Thai food: Som Tum Thai (green papaya salad with shrimp and peanuts) and Tom Yum (spicy and sour soup with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, lime juice, fish sauce and crushed chili peppers) are favourites of mine.
My favourite expression in Italian is chi trova un amico, trova un tesoro; ‘who finds a friend, finds a treasure’ or a ‘friend is a treasure’.
What I love to do most when I am in Italy is spending time with family and friends.
My favourite apps are Duolingo, Facebook, Viber and Whatsapp; I use Duolingo to maintain the Spanish and French I studied at university, while I use the other three apps to keep in touch with my friends who live all over the world.