About the Scuola, a 501c3 non profit organization

The Mission

The Mission of Scuola Italiana di Portland is to bring accessible Italian language and culture to the local and global community in a welcoming and student centered environment.

The Staff

Heather Niles: Program Coordinator

My name is Heather and I’ve been with Scuola Italiana since 2017. My background is in non-profit and governmental work and I have a Masters in Public Administration. I’ve worked at the federal and local government level for many years before becoming interested in non-profit work. I’m not Italian and it may surprise you to know I don’t speak Italian, but I’ve grown to love this language and culture in my years here. If you reach out to the school, you will probably speak to me! I love hanging out with my family, walking, knitting, and reading.

Daniela Silvestrin: Registration and Adult Teacher

Ciao! My name is Daniela, and I was born in a small village in the hills of northern Italy. I recently moved to Portland with my husband.

I have a degree in Education (Scienze dell’Educazione) from the University of Padova. In Italy, I was working in adult education and also as a private tutor for children.

I’m very excited to be a part of Scuola Italiana di Portland and to have the opportunity to share my native language and culture. I love traveling, cooking Italian dishes, and talking about my country.

The Teachers

Preschool and Childrens’ Classes

_MG_3609 Lara Carnovali 2015-16Lara Carnovali: Preschool Teacher and Children’s Program Coordinator

My name is Lara Carnovali and I am very happy to be teaching at the Scuola Italiana di Portland.

I come from Milano, Italy and I’ve always dreamed of being a teacher. I received a degree in Education (Scienze della Formazione Primaria) from the University of Milano – Bicocca in 2008. I also worked as a teacher from 2002 to 2009 at an elementary school near Milano, Italy, where I focused on helping my students experience that learning can and must be fun to be effective.

In 2010, I started a collaboration with Edigio, an Italian publisher of books for children, and my first illustrated book, “Mielisa, apetta indecisa” was published.

Alessio Pasini: Preschool Teacher and Assistant

My name is Alessio and I am very excited to be teaching at the Scuola Italiana di Portland. I come from Romagna, Italy and I’ve always dreamed of working with languages and children. I received a diploma of international business administration from Oriani Tech School in Faenza in 2000. I also worked as a babysitter right after I moved to the states in 20202 while being a stay at home dad. That gave me the opportunity to be very intentional on how I wanted to teach language to my son, so I am excited to share all my tricks with other children in the classroom.

Tamara Robson: Weekend Teacher (ages 7-11) and Playgroup Instructor

Ciao! My name is Tamara and I am originally from Slovenia, but I’ve been living in Portland for the last four years and I’m still eager to discover everything this city has to offer. We love living here and yet whenever possible my family takes time off and we travel abroad as we strongly believe in the importance of learning about other cultures. I hold a master’s degree in Law, but I’m passionate about learning and teaching foreign languages and I love sharing that passion with my students of all ages.

Adult Classes

Pina Di Rosa: Adult Classes, Summer Camps, Cooking Classes, and Adult Classes

Ciao! I was born in the south of Italy, in Naples, but I lived many years in Brescia, in the north. I earned my degree in nursing and I practiced for over 25 years in the fields of psychiatry and psychology.

My passion for the study of  humanities lead me to back to school where I graduated from the Università Degli Studi di Pavia with high honors in Italian Language and Literature, with a thesis of Latin Paleography on the handwriting of the poet Giacomo Leopardi. I have earned the DITALS (Certificate of proficiency in teaching Italian as a second language).

I love music. I am a singer and guitarist.  I play in different venues in and around Portland. I have published two CDs of my Italian music. I’ve always had many compliments on my cooking skills, so I teach Italian cooking in classes for children and adults. I am a world traveler, and once during a trip to Turkey, I met my husband, an American and that was how I ended up here in Portland.

Dominique Dore'Dominique Dore: Adult Classes

Ciao! I’m Dominique Dore. I’m very excited to share my passion for teaching and knowledge of Italian language and culture with the students of the Scuola Italiana!

I attended high school in Massa Carrara when I was sixteen with no formal Italian training and initially learned to speak by the sink or swim method.  I had a particularly inspirational literature teacher and have been an advocate for Italian language and culture ever since.  I went on to get a B.A. in Italian Literature from U.C. Santa Cruz in 1993 and moved to Rome shortly after where I worked as a translator and assistant to a film producer for two years.

Since then I have worked in Italian wine import in the San Francisco bay area and returned to Rome to earn my TEFL certificate and work as a translator, interpreter and language instructor for another three years in 2003.  I recently finished the coursework for my Masters in Italian from San Francisco State University, where I taught various levels of Italian language and culture and studied linguistics and methods.

I have also taught at a number of private schools, done freelance work as a translator/interpreter and cultural liaison and contributed to events for the Amici di Italia foundation with particular interest in food and wine and film.  I was also a founding member of the first American chapter of Slow Food and am a certified wine educator through WSET.

Robert Morse: Adult Classes

Ciao! I have taught Italian for more than fifteen years, both at the College and Adult Education levels. I earned my Master’s degree in Italian from the University of Virginia in 2007, and then taught at Saint Mary’s College in Indiana until 2016.

During fifteen years living and working in Italy, I enjoyed an outstanding career as a professional basketball player in Varese and Reggio Emilia, and later worked in the sports business in Rome, while learning Italian fluently. In 2009 I became an honorary citizen of the City of Varese, Italy. My wife, Elizabeth, and I moved to Portland in 2016 for family reasons.

Betty Schmidt: Adult Classes

Ciao! My name is Betty and I am very happy to join the community of Scuola Italiana. I have been speaking Italian for 35 years and teaching it professionally for over 15.

Originally from Oregon, I am a graduate of Portland State University. I lived in Rome in the 1980s where I was married to a Roman and had 2 children. I finished a program in Italian language for foreigners while in Rome and while living there also taught EFL both privately and through St James School. My English students were from all walks of life: bankers and phone company employees, film directors and housewives, teens and small children.

My family and I moved back to the states in 1992 where my husband and his brother opened a restaurant in the Italian neighborhood of North Beach in San Francisco. While in San Francisco I worked for a wholesale gourmet food company, speaking Italian daily with Bay Area Italian chefs.

Since moving back to Portland in 2000, I have taught Italian at Portland Community College, Nike, NW Academy and Riverdale High School among other places and continue to tutor. I have managed to visit Italy almost every year since leaving as I never tire of the beauty of the language, the fascinating history, the warm and welcoming people and great food and wine!

Cinzia Corio-Holman: Adult Classes

Salve a tutti! I am an Italian native who grew up in Milan and attended college at the Università degli Studi di Milano, obtaining a Master’s Degree in Foreign Languages and Literatures with a focus on English and Russian. While in college, I studied for a semester both in London, UK and Moscow, Russia.

While still living in Italy, I taught English at all levels and was tutoring students at middle school, high school and college level.
I moved to Portland, OR in 1994 after marrying an US national and soon after was given the opportunity to teach Italian at Portland Community College. Later I also taught Italian at a couple of private schools and at the Multnomah Athletic Club. In more recent years, I have mainly taught private students from one-on-one instruction to group instruction.

In addition to teaching, I am an accomplished translator from English to Italian and viceversa. I have also done voice over work in Italian.
I hold a full time job as a paralegal and am a registered notary with the State of Oregon, doing notarizations of English and Italian language documents.

Erika Spadavecchia: Adult Classes
Ciao! My name is Erika, I am a published poet and translator, and I am very excited to be part of Scuola Italiana.
I am originally from Rome, Italy, and I recently graduated with an MPhil in Literature from the University of Cambridge. I moved from Rome to the United States to study creative writing and I am currently working on my first collection of short stories.
I live in Portland with my cat Cannoli, and I enjoy reading, cooking and tarot.

The Board of Directors

Alessandro MastroroccoAlessandro Mastrorocco, Board President

Alessandro is a native Italian, who came to the US from Milano in 2011. He has been a part of the Scuola since 2011 and brings his experience as both an educator and administrator. Alessandro believes that education is about building bridges, and he welcomes the sense of community that he experiences at the Scuola.

He has a master’s degree in political science from Milano State University where he served as a researcher, teaching Contemporary History and Political Parties History.  He was on the editorial staff of the review Ventunesimo Secolo, a review focused on political transitions. Alessandro is a published author of history and served as consultant and editor of the Milano Contemporary History Museums. He organized several cultural events and exhibitions for the Milano Museum. Alessandro also has an MBA degree from Marylhurst University.

Currently, Alessandro works with the Early Learning Washington County team to ensure access to free and quality early childhood education services for low-income families in Washington County. He is responsible for the enrollment in the Preschool Promise Program in Washington County.

Alessandro and his family live in Aloha with their dog, Mina.

Mirella Rizzatti photoMirella Rizzatti, Secretary

Mirella Rizzatti is a native of Italy and an Italian language expert. She studied Italian and Latin extensively at the university level in Triest, Italy.

She has been working as an Italian/English translator with the Consulate General of Italy in San Francisco, CA for many years. She also works regularly with the Honorary Consul of Italy in Portland, OR.

Mirella founded Italian One-on-One in 1991, a tutoring and translation business, and since then has taught Italian at Portland State University, Portland Community College, Mount Hood Community College, at several private schools of foreign language (such as Passport to Languages), and privately to hundreds of individual students.

Mirella enjoys spending her spare time volunteering at her church and is very active in the Mass, acting as Sacristan, Eucharistic Minister and Usher. She enjoys traveling with her family, being with her many friends, and taking care of her four cats.

Joe CavalliJoe Cavalli, Director

After spending 4 years in the US Army, Joe Cavalli studied History in graduate school at the University of Portland.

For 10 years he taught internationally in Zagreb, Rome, Florence, and the Kingdom of Bahrain. Currently he teaches US, World and Pacific Northwest History at Clark College in Vancouver.

He’s also the Program Director for the Model United Nations.

Melissa Egizio Slechta, Director

Melissa grew up in a very strong Italian-American community outside of Chicago and spent many summers visiting her grandparents and other family in Caramonico Terme, Abruzzo. She was the first recipient of the Italian-American Cultural Society college scholarship and went on to study Political Science and Italian Studies at the University of Illinois, including a year at the Universita di Bologna.  Melissa continued her education with a graduate degree in Labor and Industrial Relations at the University of Illinois and has worked in the Human Resources field for the last 15 years, always with a passion for organizational development and employee relations.

Melissa moved to the Portland area in 2013 and was pleased to find a playgroup and preschool offering focused on Italian language and culture. Her son is currently enrolled in the Scuola preschool program and will be transitioning to the afterschool/weekend program soon. She recognizes the great benefit of language immersion programs and wants to give her children a strong foundation in language learning.  She also wants to be part of strengthening and growing Scuola Italiana di Portland for future generations.

Cinzia Corio-Holman, Director

Cinzia Corio-Holman is the Senior Paralegal in the Legal Department at the Port of Portland, where she specializes in aviation and commercial real estate.

A native of Italy, Cinzia moved to Portland, Oregon, from Milan in 1994 after getting married to a US national, subsequently becoming a dual citizen of Italy and the United States in 2001.

Cinzia is deeply involved with the Italian community in Portland. In addition to serving on the Board of the Scuola Italiana, she is a Director and Secretary of the Associazione Culturale Italiana di Portland, whose main focus is hosting an annual festival of Italian film. Cinzia is also a Director of the Portland’s 5 Center for the Arts Foundation, whose mission is to secure funds for culturally relevant education programming and venue capital projects as part of Portland’5 Centers for the Arts’ commitment to ensure access to the performing arts for people of all means, cultures, abilities, and ethnicities.

A graduate of the University of Milan, Cinzia holds a Master’s Degree in Foreign Languages and Literatures with a focus on English and Russian Studies. She enjoys reading, music, cooking, traveling, theater, and keeping current on all things Italian. She is married to Mark and has two children, Marco and Maya. The household is fully bilingual and binational.

Daniele Piacentini: Treasurer

Ciao a tutti! Daniele was born and raised in Rome, the Eternal City, where he lived until 2015 before moving to Portland, Oregon. Daniele has a Master’s Degree in Business from University of People, Pasadena, CA. He is a diligent professional with extensive experience spearheading various strategic operations as well as managerial and organizational responsibilities with a focus on Operations and Information Technology.Daniele enjoy cultural events, travelling, music, art, social drinking, food, hiking and football (soccer). He is a dual citizen, Italian and American, and he is eager to help Scuola Italiana of Portland grow and become one of the reference points for the Italian community in Portland and the metro area.

Jennifer Trotti O’Brien, Director

Jennifer is a cofounder of a real estate investment/development firm in Portland, Oregon. Additionally she works in tour management for many European travel tours. Her expertise in sales, marketing and fundraising and her interest in all things Italian and her own Italian heritage is a good fit for her role with Scuola Italiano. Jennifer speaks English and Spanish.

Jennifer has also been active on volunteer boards with Ainsworth Foundation, Ainsworth Site council, Cedarwood Parent Council & Central Catholic RAMS program advisory.

Grazia Solazzi, Board PresidentGrazia Solazzi: Founder and Board President Emeritus

As one of the founding members of Scuola Italiana di Portland, Board President Grazia Solazzi knows full well the challenges that come with establishing and operating a language school, but her passion and commitment to her own children, as well as her desire to make Italian language available to all children in the Portland metro area, keep her the driving force behind Scuola Italiana.

When Grazia first came to the US, she had no plans of opening a school. In fact, it wasn’t until her oldest child began to read and write in English that she recognized the importance of a formal Italian education. With no programs available, Grazia garnered the support of other like-minded parents in the community and began the process of establishing an Italian language and culture school. In 2006, La Scuola Italiana di Portland officially became the first and only Italian language school for children in the greater Portland area.

In addition to her duties as board president, Grazia is a busy mother of three, an up-and-coming entrepreneur, and a food critic. She is actively involved in the local Italian community and is a member of Comitato Uniti Italiano (United Italian Committee), the committee which oversees and coordinates all of the community’s Italian organization’s activities.

Born in Sarzana, a small town in the Province of La Spezia in northern Italy, her favorite childhood memories are those of holidays spent with her mother and father in the small seaside towns of Lerici and Peschici and the wonderful family meals they shared together. Both her mother and grandmother were excellent cooks, and she spent countless hours in the kitchen preparing large family meals with them. It’s these fond memories that led her to become a professional food critic and journalist.

Besides her passion for her family and food, she loves traveling and experiencing new cultures. Her favorite trip was to Yemen where it felt like traveling back a couple of centuries, with some strange, striking contrasts of modern inventions; absolutely fascinating.

Grazia earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Parma and her master’s degree in Journalism at Catholic University in Milan.