Teaching a native language in a foreign land
She went from being a pharmacist in a small Italian town to an Italian professor at Wisconsin's largest private university. Claudia Pessarelli is one of only two women who teach Italian at Marquette University. She firmly believes that nowadays, learning another language is much easier.
“If you are able to speak even a bit of another language, it makes it more welcoming,” says Pessarelli.
The adjunct faculty member was working as a pharmacist in Italy, where she was born and raised, when her husband was offered a better job, and in 1995, she arrived to Pittsburg. She was hardly able to speak English.
“It was a nice change, and I knew it was going to be an experience to live a different life,” remembers Pessarelli.
She moved to Wisconsin when she had her now-teenage daugther, started teaching Italian privately, and was later offered a job at Marquette.
Eight years later, she continues to teach different types of students the basics of the Italian language in a foreign language department she believes is constantly growing. Pessarelli mostly urges her students to always try and even make a few mistakes, because if you do not, “you still won't learn the language.”
“I understand the struggle my students go through, so it makes me more open and understanding because I had people who helped me,” says Pessarelli, whose parents were also professors.
“You do your job and I'm nice to you, so don't expect to run over me,” she says.
Gabby Kailas, a sophomore in the College of Communication, says: “I love her. Most teachers don't know anything about the culture, and she's just overwhelmingly Italian. She is also very understanding.”
Pessarelli genuinely states that she is “extremely proud” to be a part of the Marquette community.
“I didn't think I was going to be so involved. I talk about my job, and I can't help but feel happy.”