Every morning he enters his classroom with a loud, “Buongiorno classe!” Americo Marano is a professor at Mt. SAC with a long and illustrious history of inspiring and teaching students the language and culture of Italy. For 33 years, Professore Marano, as the Italian students call him, has been a member of the Mt. SAC language department. Marano was born in Naples, and has spent a great amount of his life in Italy. He speaks with noticeable Italian dialect and charm, but some might be surprised to learn that not only is he bilingual, but also trilingual.
Before his time teaching at Mt. SAC, Marano spent several years substitute teaching in the Rowland Heights district and then became a permanent teacher at Western Christian High School teaching Spanish.
“The differences between Spanish and Italian are great, but there are a lot of similarities,” he says. So there was no struggle when he double majored at UCLA and Cal State Fullerton in both Spanish and Italian.
Marano earned a job as a teacher for Mt. SAC in 1978 and has been a vital part of the language department.
“For nine years, I was in charge of the study abroad for summer school at Mt. SAC. In those years, I took about 250 students for school in Italy.”
Taking students abroad to view the country was a great experience for him and those involved. Of the many things the foreign language department experienced in Italy, he said that the best part was teaching the history and interacting with the environment. “The environment is a real big deal. If you go to work, you will probably pass a church that was built in the 1800s. There is no communication here between the person and their surroundings. Over there you walk the streets and you are involved with the environment and buildings that go back centuries.”
Carmen Rodriguez, 22, sociology major and president of the Mt. SAC Italian club, was one of those 250 students that visited Italy. “It was an awesome experience. It was actually Marano that encouraged me to do the program. He not only wanted to teach us the language, but to understand the culture over there.”
Traditionally, food is a major part of anyone’s culture and to Marano, good Italian food is one of the many things a person should experience in their lifetime.
“In all of the years I’ve been in California, the Italian food from here lacks something. They still have to cater to the Americans. One thing I would like to find is the authentic aroma of the kitchen, the ingredients in the air..” Marano described instances in which he would walk through the streets of Rome and Napoli and could tell a great restaurant just from passing by and smelling the food, the wine, and hearing the people in the place having a good time.
It is that type of knowledge and passion that drives Marano into teaching students. One of the problems he finds with his class is the number of transfer students trying to just fill a requirement. He wishes they wouldn’t just fill the requirement, but take something more out of his class. He wants to teach everyone, even non-Italian majors, the experience of learning the language, the cultural aspect. “I want to clear the misconception of the country and the language.”
He also understands the importance of learning a second language in America. “One language doesn’t get you too far. One of the faults of the Americans is the lack of having a second language. And it’s a shame; it’s a beautiful thing to learn.”
Marano said he would like to pass down to his students is a quote that he lives by. “Viva per oggi e dimenticare domani.” This means live for today and forget tomorrow, a sentiment of enjoying each day as it comes.
- Gil Garcia