About the Scuola, a 501c3 non profit organization
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.
Lara 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.
Adriana Garcia: Preschool Teacher
Originally a native of California, I have been living in Portland since 2004 with my husband and two young children. My passion for all things Italian began with my first trip to Italy during the summer between my junior and senior year in high school.
In preparation for a college semester abroad in Parma, Italy, I began studying Italian while attending Pitzer College, a small liberal arts college in Claremont, CA. After graduation, I returned to Parma where I lived and worked for five years, creating many lasting and life-long connections.
I hold a Master’s Degree in Political Science from Claremont Graduate School and am tri-lingual, speaking English, Spanish, and Italian. I am very excited to be a part of Scuola Italiana di Portland and to have the opportunity to share my excitement for the Italian language and culture. In my free time, I love spending time with my family, traveling, and cooking Italian dishes.
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.
Ryane Sergent: Preschool Assistant, Weekend, Ages 7-11
Ryane Sergent graduated from The Ohio State University in 2020 with a degree in Romance Studies and a minor in Linguistics, where she learned Italian, French, and Spanish, studied abroad in Siena, and did a linguistics research project focused on heritage Spanish speakers. She then graduated from the University of Oregon with a Masters in Language Teaching in 2021, where she learned traditional and progressive methods of teaching language and designed a virtual medical Spanish course for medical professionals. Ryane discovered her passion for teaching in college while teaching Italian to middle schoolers during a language immersion summer camp. She realized how impactful language learning can be in other disciplines, and how important it is to promote language instruction in the United States. She wishes to share her passion for Italian language and culture with the world through language instruction.
Touria Samiri: Weekend, Ages 7-11
I was born in Morocco and immigrate as a child to Italy. I had won different Italian Young and Senior Championships; had participated in
many European Championships, and the World Cross Country Championship at Bydgoszcz in 2013 (Poland), so I had the opportunity to travel and see some cities around the world. It was a pleasure and an honor for me to represent Italy. I went to “High School Specializing in Languages, Social Sciences, Psychology, and Education” in Italy. In college, I specialized in “Physical Education and Sport Science.” I hope to manage my time next year between my children, work, and my desire to become a track & field Head Coach.
Ciao! I was born and grew up in Siena, Italy – the home of the world famous Palio horse race. I have a degree in Foreign Languages and Literature from the University of Siena, Italy, and a master’s degree in Tourism Promotion and Management from the University of Verona, Italy.
My main occupation is in the hotel industry but I have always enjoyed teaching Italian. I have conducted private lessons and worked with several Italian language schools for American students, in my hometown of Siena.
I love being around children and furthering their language development, as I do every day with my daughter, through fun and stimulating activities. Outside of work, teaching and family. I love dancing ballet and tango and cooking for and with family and friends.
Daniela Silvestrin: Adult Teacher and Registrar
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.
Alessandro 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.
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.
Cinzia di Vasta: Adult Classes
Hello! My name is Cinzia and I was born in Bella Napoli where I completed my studies at the Istituto Universitario L’Orientale, earning a degree in Foreign Languages and Literature. I have worked for the Italian government and for the U.S. government, always trying to bridge the two cultures together. I taught Italian as part of Adult Continuing Education at Clark College, WA, and for the past ten years I have worked in Washington D.C. as a language and Culture Instructor at the Foreign Service Institute, getting U.S. diplomats and their dependents ready to serve in Italy. I really enjoy teaching adult classes; I also write for the blog of Italians in D.C. and I love cooking – Italian dishes, of course!
Betty Schmidt: Adult Classes, Weekend Classes, Hangout Teacher
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.
The Board of Directors
Alessandra Gardino, Board President
Alessandra was born in Northern Italy and began to travel around the world at a young age. After graduation, she worked as a corporate executive in the Mediterranean’s competitive tourism industry and began to dream of building a company that introduced curious, active travelers to diverse, fascinating cultures and art.
In 2003, that dream became a reality with the creation of MG Expeditions, now Customized Journeys.
Alessandra has been the managing director of her own business for nearly 15 years, bringing valuable insight and experience to the board. Her expertise with planning, marketing, budgeting, and managing her company will enable her to skillfully guide and grow the school into the future.
Alessandra has a passion for languages and fluently speaks Spanish, French, and English. She has a great passion for languages, art history, food, wine, archeology and, of course, adventure. She is also certified to teach Italian as a second language to college level adults. As a native Italian and parent, Alessandra is committed to the mission and success of Scuola Italiana di Portland.
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 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 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 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.
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.
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.