In Term One, 2021, students at St Damien’s Catholic Primary School in Dawesville connected online with an assistant teacher in Italy to enrich their learning in the school’s Italian program.
St Damien’s is the first primary school to trial the Western Australian Association of Teachers of Italian (WAATI) Italian Language Assistants Program – Virtual Mode.
After Italian Teacher Laura Bava laid the groundwork for the initiative, with the support of Principal Daniel Gooch, lessons including the video link with Italy began.
Students have gained the perspective and input of their Milan-based Assistant Teacher, Veronica Ritardo, who is currently studying at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, one of three Italian universities who are supporting the Virtual Mode program as it runs across 12 WA schools.
Nate, in Year 5 at St Damien’s, said that “having a teacher that is in Italy is an amazing opportunity,”
Another of the Year 5s, Isla, said that “having Veronica in the class made it easier to learn and translate,”
Ms Ritardo and other university students involved in the program provide support in lessons, tutoring, and resource preparation as part of new internship opportunities available through their universities at a time when they must stay home due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Signora Bava said that the initiative had helped increase student engagement in Italian lessons.
“I wanted to provide my students with a life experience and unique opportunity,” she said.
“Veronica was a breath of fresh air and my students have been able to experience rich language and culture through the virtual window Veronica has provided,
“With Veronica’s support Italian and Italy become real in the classroom,”
School Principal, Daniel Gooch, said that it had been wonderful to see students interact with someone on the other side of the world using technology in the classroom.
“This initiative has been implemented to support the delivery of face-to-face Italian Language lessons… since the virtual mode of lessons started, the students’ engagement has increased and it has given them a deeper understanding of the Italian life, language and culture,”