About the Scuola, a 501c3 non profit organization

The Mission
Scuola Italiana di Portland promotes the Italian language and culture to children and adults in a student-centered environment, nurturing responsible, global citizens by providing cross-cultural understanding and fostering a deep appreciation for world civilizations that intersect with the Italian culture.

The Teachers

_MG_3609 Lara Carnovali 2015-16Lara Carnovali: Preschool and After school Classes, Summer Camps

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 in the next months my first illustrated book, “Mielisa, apetta indecisa” will be published.


Pina Di Rosa 2014 - 15 school Year (150x200)Pina Di Rosa: Preschool, Summer Camps and Adult Classes

Ciao! My name is Pina Di Rosa and I am very pleased to be working with the students of Scuola Italiana.

Before moving to Portland, I lived in Italy and worked as a nurse for more than 20 years. In addition to my nursing education, I have a degree in Italian literature, and I have obtained the DITALS (Certificate of proficiency in teaching Italian as a second language) from Porta d’Oriente dell’ Università di Siena.

Scuola Italiana is a good place for me because I love working with children and adults to share my native language. I also enjoy traveling with my family, watching movies, and playing my guitar.


_MG_3613 Flavia Fava 2015-16Flavia Fava: Playgroup Coordinator, Preschool Assistant Teacher and Summer Camps

Ciao my name is Flavia and I am very happy to be working at Scuola Italiana at Portland.
I was born near Venice, but more recently lived with my husband and our two children in a small village called Caselette in northern Italy.
My family and I moved to Vancouver, WA at the end of 2010 because of my husband’s work, and we all love this area!
In Italy, I worked as accountant for twenty years and also as a tutor for a small private high school.
I love watching movies and walking, but above all, I love teaching at Scuola Italiana. I enjoy spending time with our youngest students, who are wonderfully unique and amazing!


Daniela Silvestrin: Weekend Teacher, Weekend Workshop Teacher, and Mommy and Me 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.


Beatrice Mabrey-Robeson: After School Teacher

Ciao a tutti! My name is Beatrice and I’m excited to be teaching at the Scuola Italiana di Portland. I have a BA in Italian, English, and Anthropology from Tulane University and a PhD in Italian Studies from The University of Texas at Austin.

I have worked extensively as both an Italian teacher and a nanny. I deeply enjoy teaching Italian and I look forward to working with the children of the Scuola Italiana.




Sara Dubey: Children’s and Adult Classes

Hi! My name is Sara and I am from Rome, Italy.

I am happy to teach in Portland and to work with the Scuola Italiana di Portland. Since 1998, I am a qualified teacher under the Italian Ministry of Education and I have worked for 12 years in the network of the primary and middle schools in Rome. I also worked as Italian language instructor for adult classes in the Italian Institute of Culture in Madrid, New Delhi, London, Brussels and Shanghai.

I hold a University Degree in Historical Science, a Master’s Degree in Communication and a Master’s Degree in Psychology, Pedagogy and Learning disabilities. Along with my work at Scuola Italiana, I also teach at Portland State University and at Portland Community College.  I enjoy teaching very much.


IMG_2579 Joe's website pictureJoseph Wachunas: Adult Classes

Ciao a tutti!  I am extremely excited to be teaching at Scuola Italiana and sharing my love for my favorite country and language.

Inspired by my Italian heritage, I first lived in Italy as a Rotary exchange student, after high school, in the northern city of Bergamo for a year.  I was immersed in Italian culture and language and lived with three families.  I also studied at Liceo Giovanni Falcone, a linguistics school. More recently, I completed an advanced language program from Universita’ per Stranieri di Siena, Italy’s oldest language school.

In addition to Scuola Italiana, I teach private lessons and work as a language trainer for the international company goFluent where I specialize in English training for Italian business executives.

I have also organized the Portland Italian Language Meetup group since 2006 and pride myself on creating a strong Italian community despite living across the world from my favorite country.


Alessandro MastroroccoAlessandro Mastrorocco: Adult Classes

Ciao! My name is Alessandro and I come from Milano. I teach the advanced and intermediate level adult program at Scuola Italiana.

I earned my master degree in Political Science from Milano State University where I served as a research assistant, teaching Contemporary History and Political Parties History. I am on the editorial staff of the review Ventunesimo Secolo, a review focused on political transitions.

I am a published author of history and I served as editor of the Milano Contemporary History Museums website. I organized cultural events for the Milano Museum and exhibitions such as: Ritorno alla democrazia anniversary of the Italian Republic; Memorial della Liberazione di Milano – 60th anniversary of the Liberation of Milan and “Numero Zero,” three days dedicated to the city of Milano.

I collaborate with the online magazine Suite 101 based in Vancouver, BC, writing articles about Italians in history, fashion and sports. I am also a board member of the Italian Film Festival 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.


IMG_0308 Latifah TroncellitiLatifah Troncelliti: Adult Classes

It is refreshing to be teaching at La Scuola Italiana after twenty years of working in the university system. I was born and raised in Rome, where I completed all of my early schooling and studied visual arts. After moving to the US, I earned a degree in Fine Arts, an MA and PhD in Romance Languages from the University of Oregon and a MA in Church History from the Franciscan Institute of Religious Studies in St. Bonaventure University, N Y.  I am so pleased to share my Italian language and culture at Scuola Italiana, where all students are motivated.


Elisa Saturno Paasche: Adult Classes

My name is Elisa and I am honored to be teaching at the Scuola Italiana di Portland.

I have an MA in foreign languages and literature earned at the University of Perugia in Italy. I spent several years in Germany, where I worked as a preschool teacher, as a private instructor, and as a freelance translator and interpreter for exhibitions and conferences.

Back in Italy, I taught English at the elementary schools, as well as German at the high schools in Terni. I moved to Portland in 2005 and since 2010, I have been teaching Italian at Portland State University. I have been researching and writing papers about Italian Film studies and how cinema can be used in the classroom to teach a foreign language and the culture of that particular country.

I published some articles and a book chapter in this field. Currently, I am in my second year of PhD in Italian Film Studies at the University of Birmingham, UK as a long distance researcher.


The Board of Directors

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.


Alessandro MastroroccoAlessandro Mastrorocco, Vice President

Alessandro is native Italian, who comes to us from Milano, Italy.

He has Masters degree in Political Science from Milano State University where he served as a research assistant, teaching Contemporary History and Political Parties History.  He was also 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 editor of the Milano Contemporary History Museums website. He organized cultural events for the Milano Museum and exhibitions such as: Ritorno alla democrazia anniversary of the Italian Republic; Memorial della Liberazione di Milano 60th anniversary of the Liberation of Milan and “Numero Zero,” three days dedicated to the city of Milano.

Alessandro collaborates with the online magazine Suite 101 based in Vancouver, BC, writing articles about Italians in history, fashion and sports. He is also on the board of the Italian Film Festival in Portland, Oregon.


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.


Bob IannaconeBob Iannacone, Director

Bob Iannacone  joined the board because he believes that school is a very important part of maintaining Italian culture in Portland.

Bob is an active member of the local Italian community and is involved in many of the local Italian clubs and events, including the Italian Businessmen’s Club, Festa Italiana, Columbus Day Banquet, and the Italian Hour on KBOO.

He was born and raised in Orange, NJ, where he graduated from Seton Hall University.  His favorite childhood memories are those of spending holidays with his very large extended family, enjoying summer days at the Jersey shore, and “liner” trips from Manhattan up the Hudson River.

He first came to Portland through work and loved it so much that he decided it would be a great place to retire. Now that he’s mostly retired, he spends his time riding his bike along the river, traveling, listening to jazz, reading crime novels, and enjoying the local Italian scene.


Joe CavalliJoe Cavalli, Director










profile pic 1 TonyaTonya Russo Hamilton, Director

Tonya Russo Hamilton is a writer and elementary school teacher in the Portland metro area who is passionate about preserving history and family heritage. She grew up in a large Italian family in southeast Portland and enjoys passing on her passion to students through writing and storytelling.

Tonya is the founder and managing editor of Italian Portland, a website dedicated to Italian culture in Portland. She also writes feature articles on Portland’s Italian community for Italo-Americano newspaper, the oldest national Italian American newspaper that has been in existence since 1908.

Her hope for Portland’s Italian community is to see the realization of an Italian Cultural Center that will house Scuola Italiana di Portland. I’d love to see language as the central focus of our future Italian Cultural Center.

Her favorite quote about learning the Italian language comes from the book, La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, the World’s most Enchanting Language. In the book, the author, Dianne Hales states, Italians say that someone who acquires a new language possesses it. In my case, Italian possesses me. With Italian racing like blood through my veins, I do indeed see with different eyes, hear with different ears, and drink in the world with all my senses.

Tonya is delighted and proud to be a part of Scuola Italiana di Portland and their offerings of the beautiful Italian language and culture to the Portland community.


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.