By Corinne Wnek
“Teacher Feature” is a biweekly column that offers readers a look into today’s classrooms so they can see some of the innovative teaching that is going on by talented educators right here in our communities.
“No matter what their interests, I encourage my students to be lovers of learning,” says Maria Buontempo, World Language teacher at Mother Seton Regional High School in Clark. A veteran teacher of 14 years, Ms. Buontempo teaches Latin 1 and all levels of French at the prestigious all girls’ school.
Ms. Buontempo got her start at Upsala College, her alma mater, where she first taught English to visiting Korean students. “This was very challenging for me,” she says, “but exciting at the same time. I got to take these students on trips to cities like Boston and Washington D.C. as part of their American cultural experience.”
“I earned a dual degree in French and Multinational Corporate Studies and soon after graduating received my MBA. I worked for a year in the corporate sector assisting families who were leaving the United States to work abroad as well as those who were returning from a foreign assignment. But it wasn’t enough for me and I realized I missed working with students.” Ms. Buontempo made the decision to earn her teaching certification. “I just knew this was my calling,” she smiled.
Sr. Regina Martin, principal of Mother Seton, agrees and says “we are fortunate to have so many highly credentialed teachers, like Maria, on staff here. Our teachers offer more than academics to their students. They provide a broad perspective for learning, not just because most have advanced degrees, but because of their unique backgrounds. Maria is a perfect example of that.”
“It’s important to me that my students enjoy learning and have fun doing it,” Ms. Buontempo explains. “For instance, my French students recently completed a project that challenged their French skills and turned our classroom into a Parisian restaurant. Partnered students designed menus in French and were also the waiters and waitresses who took orders in French. In addition, the students brought in or cooked authentic French food as listed on their menu.”
She continues to say “what made the project so cool is that we used our SMART Board to pull up real time scenes from Paris streets. There we were, in Clark, New Jersey, eating our lunch with the Eiffel Tower right there in the background. It was a great integration of art, technology, and world language creatively infused into learning, all the while having so much fun,” she says with pride.
Ms. Buontempo is a world traveler and a connoisseur of great cooking. Last summer she was in Italy and assisted in a three day preparation of a dessert that was being made for a showcase of Italian regional cooking. “Everything in this jelly filled dessert was made from scratch, including a special white icing. It took three days to prepare because we had to make six thousand samples of this specialty! But it was a great experience, especially because this took place in the town where my parents were raised.”
In any language, Maria Buontempo is simply magnifique!
Corinne Wnek believes that teachers, and the administrators and boards of education which support their work, deserve a big, red apple for doing an outstanding job in shaping our most important commodity, the lives of our children. Her weekly column, “The Writer’s Block,” already appears every Friday in the online edition of this publication.
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