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Zappador Guerra Named 2012 Recipient Of Road Scholar Award

Published: November 15, 2012

Daniela Zappador Guerra was recently named the 2012 recipient of the annual Road Scholar Award including $1,000 in support of her teaching career as a part-time lecturer of Italian for the Department of Romance, German, Russian Languages and Literatures (RGRLL).

The annual Road Scholar Award recipient is selected by a College of Liberal Arts committee comprised of the dean, associate dean, a tenure-track faculty member and a lecturer. The recipient must have submitted an application of no more than four pages and must be endorsed by their department chair. The recipient also must have a three-year entitlement or equivalent designation and must demonstrate excellence in teaching by achieving consistently high peer evaluations. The Road Scholar Award endowment fund was donated by John Jung, emeritus faculty member of psychology.

“Part-time faculty are the ‘unsung teaching heroes and heroines,’ underpaid and overworked,” said Jung. “Many teach at several colleges to survive. I created the Road Scholar Award so the college can in some small way acknowledge their valuable contributions.”

“I feel great,” said Zappador Guerra, a member of the university since 2006. “It is an honor for me considering that when I came to the U.S. 15 years ago, I had no English and no job. I had to start all over again from scratch. For me, this award is a special achievement.”

Zappador Guerra feels one reason for her recognition is a commitment to the classroom that sees her accompanying her students to view such classics of Italian opera as “La Boheme” and “La Traviata.”

“The Los Angeles Music Center became my classroom,” she explained. “I wanted to introduce my students to these supreme achievements of Italian culture. I realize the language isn’t easy when the Italian is being sung, but the supertitles make it easier to follow. It was a very good experience for the students. Not only are these trips often students’ first experience at the opera, but for many, it is the first time that they had set foot in a live theater. Plus, I always try to obtain special student rates.”

The enthusiasm runs high on opera night. “Students invite their girlfriends and boyfriends; some even invite their parents and grandparents because it is such a big event,” she said. “These visits to the opera give students the chance to step into culture through performance in a famous theater like the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. It is at one time a nice experience and a typical example of Italian culture.”

Zappador Guerra’s road to CSULB began with her early teaching career in her home country of Italy. (She is now an American citizen.) She earned her Master of Arts degree in the classics from the University of Torino where she studied Greek and Latin. “Studying Latin is different in Italy than in the U.S.,” she explained. “In America, Latin and Greek are considered just other languages and a Latin teacher is simply a language teacher. The teaching methods used for current languages and for the classic ancient languages are different, that’s why here in the U.S. it was part of my professional growth acquiring knowledge on that field. In that sense, I want to thank Dr. Muller, currently our department chair. He, being also the language coordinator of RGRLL, in the past years gave me useful feedback observing my classes.”

Daniela Zappodar Guerra
Daniela Zappador Guerra

Zappador Guerra realizes it isn’t easy for Southern California students to experience genuine Italian culture outside the classroom, in what language teachers call “the community”. “It is a matter of restaurants for the most part,” she said. “I encourage my students to practice their Italian on waiters. For me, teaching Italian is more than just exposing students to a textbook. The use of the Internet is essential in that matter, and we sometimes connect via chat or e-mail with Italian people and with some of our students abroad.”

CSULB’s students are a special attraction for Zappador Guerra. “One thing I especially enjoy about this campus is the diversity of its enrollment,” she said. “I not only teach language majors but musicians and singers and Art majors who want to study in Italy. It is a special student population here.”

Zappador Guerra feels honored not just for herself but for all of the university’s lecturers. “It is so important when a non-tenured lecturer receives recognition like this. I feel the responsibility of a lecturer in RGRLL is especially important because it is often up to lecturers to prepare the students for the rest of their journey in the department, a journey that takes them even deeper into language, literature and culture. We know that a student’s first impact with a new language is important for their success. We provide the customers,” she laughed.

“Without the support of lecturers, the temptation of language students to quit can be overwhelming,” she said. “Lecturers have a huge responsibility. I feel the department’s faculty members recognize what lecturers do. Everyone is involved in projects and events, from the poetry night organized by Dr. Vettore, when we share with students verses in many different languages, to the newest projects of the department, like the one implemented by Dr. Donato, Dr. Martin and Dr. Muller on teaching Italian and French for Spanish speakers, in the context of intercomprehension. In this project RGRLL has become a leader in the nation, and Italian and French instructors are working very hard on this project. There is a very good team and I feel fortunate to work here and be able to make a contribution.”