Teaching Philosophy

My teaching philosophy is rooted in a strong belief that everyone should have equal access to education and opportunities to learn that fit each person’s unique skillset. In their variety of sources, activities, and perspectives, my courses appeal to and galvanize students of all backgrounds.

I received rigorous teacher training at Cornell University, proposing and designing first-year seminars, serving as a teaching assistant in history survey courses, and teaching Italian as a second language. I was awarded two teaching prizes for my original seminars, which covered such topics as spies, wartime humor, and antiracist theory and practices. As a teaching assistant, I helped students delve into the history of modern Europe and of American capitalism. Finally, I have lived and studied in multilingual and multiethnic environments across many countries—Italy, France, Austria, Germany, and the United States. These experiences have prepared me to manage diverse classrooms and to help students with widely varying backgrounds face the challenges and opportunities that multicultural societies pose. My courses help students reach a wider and more inclusive understanding of their societies by teaching them to think creatively and critically, to read closely, and ultimately to enjoy the researcher’s craft.

Below, you can find the course descriptions of my writing seminars. Syllabi and teaching evaluations are available upon request.

Examples of courses taught

Promotional image for the TV series The Americans

A Life Under Cover: Spies in History, Fiction and Cinema

What does it mean to be a spy? Why are we so interested in other people’s secrets? The continued success of the James Bond franchise and the scandal generated by Edward Snowden’s revelations show how topical the issue of surveillance has become. This course will explore practices and representations of espionage from a range of historical periods and sources, including authors such as Jeremy Bentham, Michel Foucault, Hannah Arendt, George Orwell, and Philip K. Dick. Twentieth-century Europe will receive special emphasis, but we will also cover other geographical areas. Students will develop skills in close reading and the written analysis of a wide array of sources, such as memoirs, diaries, surveillance files, journalistic accounts, and movies.

A scene from the 1997 Italian film Life Is Beautiful

“Laughter in Hell”: Surviving through Humor in Times of War

Can laughter help you survive in times of war? Should you make fun of the traumatic events of the past? Most people would say yes to the first question but find the second one difficult to answer. We will explore how movies such as Roberto Benigni’s Life Is Beautiful and texts such as Steve Lipman’s Laughter in Hell use humor to condemn totalitarian regimes and testify to the importance of laughter as a defense mechanism. Students will learn to identify and use humor, analyzing a wide array of sources from the First and Second World Wars, such as cartoons, oral testimonies, and movies. The course will culminate in an independent oral history project using firsthand Holocaust testimonies.

Makeshift memorial outside Cup Foods, the Minneapolis grocery store where George Floyd was arrested (Photograph by Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

The Antiracist Workshop: Race and Writing in America and Europe

The May 2020 murder of George Floyd led to massive protests against police brutality and racism, in Europe as well as in America. Where do the origins of racism lie and how can we teach ourselves to be antiracist? Starting with Ibram X. Kendi’s celebrated How to Be an Antiracist, this course will explore antiracist theory and practice in a range of historical periods and contexts on both sides of the Atlantic. Students will develop their close reading and critical writing skills by studying primary historical sources, journalism, prose narratives, podcasts, and movies. The course will conclude with a final research project and public exhibition about the history of the Underground Railroad.

To explore the virtual tour of the Underground Railroad in Ithaca that my students put together in Spring 2022, click here.