Frank Sedita wins 2011 NJ Distinguished Student Teacher Award, becomes Drew’s first MAT candidate to earn the honor.

Talk about fast moves. Inside a year, Frank Sedita C’10, G’11 went from graduating from college to becoming a high school language teacher. In between, he took Drew’s new one-year Master of Arts in Teaching program and student taught—so well the school hired him.

Now he’s been recognized as one of the state’s most promising future educators.

Every year the state’s teacher training institutions nominate their top students for the New Jersey Distinguished Student Teacher Award. Sedita is one of the 15 winners, and Drew’s first award recipient. Professor Jean Modig, his adviser, was hardly surprised. Sedita is a perfectionist who “wants to be the very best teacher he can be,” she says. “But he does not take himself too seriously. He has an infectious laugh and easygoing spirit that allow him to build a strong rapport with professional colleagues and students alike.”

Given Sedita’s background (“I’m like 100 per cent Italian, my one grandmother is from Italy, and I have cousins who live there”), it’s worth noting he couldn’t speak a word of Italian before college. He majored in sociology, but became so interested in Italian after an introductory course that he eventually designed an Italian major, too. Sedita spent three consecutive summers studying in Venice. He even wrote his sociology honors thesis in Italian (“La famiglia italiana oggi: il ruolo delle strutture sociali nello sviluppo demografico del Paese,” or “The Italian Family Today: The Role of Social Structures in the Demographic Development of the Country”).

Sedita also ran an after-school Italian class at a local elementary school and tutored fellow students at Drew. The MAT program started two weeks after graduation. “The pedagogy was new. I was actually a little overwhelmed at first. But it was also kind of cool. I learned so much about integrating technology and creating a student-centered learning environment.”

Sedita began student teaching—in Italian—at Morristown High School in January. The first class went great. His first, and only, bad day came a couple weeks later. “Everyone was talking and using their cell phones,” he says. “My teacher said, ‘They’re just testing you.’”. On his last day, the school offered him a position in the world language department. Come fall he’ll be teaching Italian 2 and 3. “I want to immerse my students in the language right away, of course, but without scaring them,” he says. “I’m going to present myself as someone who is really invested in having them learn Italian, in a way that’s as fun as possible.”—Mary Jo Patterson