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Italians have a strong belief in the value of
higher education. This was particularly true for Italian
immigrants, who early on realized that to move out of the
working class, they needed to ensure that their children
received as much education as possible. Education was viewed as an investment in the future.
In the 1950s, while the first generation and grown-up children coming from
Italy worked long hours and even several jobs, their
children were encouraged to study to join the
professions-teaching, law, medicine, pharmacy. The
post-1950 immigrants are very proud of their first
generation of professionals including justices Gary Cione
and Sal Lovecchio in Calgary, and Peter Caffaro in Edmonton;
general practitioner, Dr. Silvano Vecchio; teachers, Dr.
Tony Caria, Tony Falcone, Rita and Rudy Vecchio, Mario
Rizzuto; and other professionals, Domenico Rossi
(electrical engineer) and
Adriana Albi Davies (academic and cultural administrator).
While wanting to function in Canadian society, community
leaders did not want to forget the proud heritage of Italy, going
back to classical times. Italian language instruction was seen as a means of ensuring
the survival of Italian culture. In Edmonton, the Dante Alighieri Society has been a significant force in the promotion of the Italian language and culture. Founded in 1961 by
community leaders led by Sab Roncucci, it initiated the first Italian language classes in the original Santa Maria Goretti Hall.
Myra Butti was the First Director of the school and Tony Falcone was the first teacher. Classes were taught in the old Santa Maria Goretti Parish Hall.
In the first year, there were about a dozen students. The next year they moved to Sacred Heart School, which provided free space and had two classes. The teachers, Tony Caria and Tony Falcone, were paid an honorarium of $2.50 per
lesson. They were later joined by Liana Meller and Tony Petrone. Principals have included Antonella Ciancibello, Reny Clericuzzio and Aristide Melchionna. The School has grown to become a significant force in the community offering language instruction to both teachers and adults.
Saturday morning language instruction started later in
Calgary. According to Antonella Fanella, the Italian
Saturday School was set up in Calgary, n 1974, with federal grant
funding. The Calgary Saturday language school is now
managed by the Centro Linguistico e Culturale Italiano Calgary
[Calgary Italian Linguistic and Cultural Centre] under President
It is through these seeds, that, ultimately, Italian became a part of the program of studies for the Alberta curriculum. Parents, such as Lina Urso
in Edmonton, lobbyed for an Italian language program. In 1971, Tony Falcone and Tony Caria got materials from the Government of Ontario and Tony Caria introduced Italian at the grade 7 level at Sacred Heart School and also used some of the Dante materials. In 1973,
Mr. Caria introduced the course at Archbishop O'Leary and, in 1974, Tony Petrone introduced it at St. Joseph's High
School. In 1975, Carmelo Rago succeed Tony Caria at Sacred
Heart. In 1976, Manuel DaCosta, who was working for the Secretary of State got them a $7,500 grant to create a workbook
with Tony Caria serving as the course administrator and Tony Falcone as the language
teacher. In 1982, a proposal was sent to the Edmonton Catholic School Board to move the program from "a system-based option to a provincially recognized core language option." Tony Falcone and Tony Caria were then given 15 days off work to work on the curriculum, which was
piloted in 1983. Edmonton Catholic then sold the curriculum to Calgary Catholic. A province-wide committee was
created by Alberta Education and a provincially-accepted program was created
in 1994, based on the original curriculum. In 1997, the Department of Education assigned the revision to Calgary teachers.