Distinguished Service Award for K-12 (2017): Mariastella Ciocchiara

Mariastella Cocchiara

For over four decades, Mariastella Cocchiara has been among the most visible proponents of Italian in the Massachusetts school curriculum, as a mentor, teacher, colleague, and leader. She was the founder of the Massachusetts Italian Teachers Association (MITA) as a chapter of AATI in 1989 and, over the years, has worked tirelessly to support it. Thanks to her unfailing and influential leadership, she has become a member of the Osservatorio for the Italian Consulate in Boston where she serves as a main liaison for the K-12 teachers. Additionally, she has served as Member of the Development Committee for College Board/Educational Testing Service and is currently an AP Reader. Professor Cocchiara’s dedicated service to the Italian-American Community in Massachusetts includes the founding and first president of the Centro Assistenza Studi Italiani, which would later become CASIT an “ente gestore” of the Italian government. The Centro’s purpose was to offer classes, learning materials, a small library, to support the Italian community in maintaining their ties with their cultural and language roots. After retiring from the public school system, she continues to remain extremely active in everything related to teaching Italian, from her instruction of Italian at Bentley College in Waltham, Massachussetts, her involvement as an AP Reader and active member on the Governing Board of MITA to her close collaboration with the Massachusetts Foreign Language Association Annual Conference (MaFLA) and the Italian Consulate as a member of “L’osservatorio.” In thinking about Mariastella Cocchiara’s service and contributions to the profession, one of her recommender’s has written: “I am reminded of Isaac Newton who wrote,’If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.’ I am confident that I speak for all teachers of Italian in Massachusetts when I say we owe Stella a lot for what she has done and continues to do for our professional community. Stella is our giant, and we proudly stand on her shoulders.”