Shu Ye ’18 interviewed Elementary School Italian Section Teacher Ms. Cecilia Origoni, who currently teaches students in grade three and helped found the School’s Italian Section when she started at TASIS in 2006.
When did you start at TASIS and what do you currently teach?
I currently teach third grade in the Italian Section while also teaching Italian to third-grade students in the American Section, but in previous years I have taught grades 1–4 in the Italian Section and have taught Italian to American Section students in grades 1–5. I have been working at TASIS since the Italian Section was created in 2006.
I still feel honored when I think about how I was chosen by [Elementary School Assistant Head and Italian Section Curriculum Coordinator] Guia Berera to found the Italian Section. In the beginning, the Italian Section in the Elementary School included grades 1–6 and only had two teachers. I was teaching grades 1–3. It was not easy to raise awareness of the importance and specificity of the Italian Section, but it gradually developed, and I feel happy to have witnessed the growth of the whole Elementary School.
Can you please describe your educational background and your career in education prior to TASIS?
My parents are both teachers, so I have always lived in a school environment. When I was a teenager, I did not know what I really wanted to do, but because I had always felt a strong connection with children, I decided to take the direction of teaching. After many years, I am still very glad I did.
After I decided to become a teacher, I went to Alta Scuola Pedagogica in Locarno. It was a very intensive school with a lot of teaching training. I first worked in several public schools as a substitute teacher. Then I went to London to find more opportunities and improve my English. I stayed there for one year and worked as a teacher assistant in many public schools spread out all over the city. I am particularly thankful for this experience because it led me to TASIS.
How would you describe your teaching philosophy?
There are two parts to my job: education and instruction. Instruction consists of teaching academics while education is, in my opinion, the most interesting part and certainly what I love the most.
|“Loving what you do and the place where you work is a priceless gift in a lifetime.”|
I like to describe educating as working on the soil. You need to work on the soil a lot and take good care of it until it is ready for you to put the seed in. If you put in enough effort and have patience, then as soon as you spread the seed, it quickly starts growing and will grow beautifully; more importantly, it will have strong roots. The children need to be taken good care of, and the learning comes when and if they are emotionally ready. Children are new to this world and need to be told that all of their feelings are correct and that even the negative ones need to be embraced. When a child is peaceful inside, when the grey clouds are gone, you know that she or he is ready to learn. I love to be there to witness their joyful looks when they finally feel calm and are ready to put their incredible enthusiasm into learning new topics.
I also try to teach the children to be honest, fair, and polite with themselves and with the others. Honesty is an aspect I find very important to take care of during these early years. I start by being honest with them during class time. When I make a mistake, I will say it directly, and when it’s the right thing to do, I apologize. It is important to show the children that we all get it wrong, no matter what our age is, and that this can even happen several times a day. I wish to transmit the message that mistakes have a fundamental role in our life, and that it is important to accept them and, when possible, learn something from them.
Miss Cecilia with her grade three Italian Section class
What do you like most about working at TASIS?
I was lucky to find TASIS. Still after many years, when I wake up in the morning, I feel happy about getting in my car and going to Montagnola. Loving what you do and the place where you work is a priceless gift in a lifetime.
What really makes TASIS a special place is the people who work there: we have a very beautiful atmosphere among teachers and our ES administrators, and everyone feeds off this positive environment on a daily basis. As teachers, we are more than simply colleagues, and our special relationship has a big impact on the way I approach my job and the children.
The students witness that their teachers support each other, that they laugh together, that they work as a team and do their best to help every child in need, and they somehow absorb and reproduce among themselves this positive spirit. I feel lucky to have found a place that every day pushes me to grow as a teacher and as a human being.
Visit our Faculty Features page to learn about more TASIS teachers.
TASIS Elementary School: American Section vs. Italian Section
The first English-language primary school in Ticino, the TASIS Elementary School started with 43 students in the fall of 2005. It now welcomes 175 students from more than 25 nations in grades Pre-Kindergarten through five.
In grades 1–9 at TASIS, there is an American Section and an Italian Section. In the American Section, which is designed for students whose families have resided in Ticino for fewer than six years*, core academic subjects follow the rigorous Core Knowledge Sequence and are presented in English. Students also take an Italian Language course each day, with instruction based on current proficiency level. (Note that these students may also choose to enter the Italian Section.)
Students whose families have resided in Ticino for six or more years must join the Italian Section at the start of their seventh year in the Canton. In the Italian Section, many of the core academic subjects are taught in Italian, based on the best of the traditional Italian curriculum that mirrors much of the rich Core Knowledge Curriculum, while several are taught in English, enabling students to achieve academic proficiency in both languages.
*The law of Ticino requires that children of obligatory schooling age (4 to 15) be educated in Italian. As of 2005, a special exemption allows children at TASIS who are ages 4–15 and have resided in Ticino for no more than six years to be educated primarily in another language, provided that one-fifth of the educational program is in Italian.