OSWEGO — SUNY Oswego student Benjamin Gerardi, due to receive a master’s in education in May, will spend the 2012-13 school year teaching in Salzburg as a guest of the Austrian government.
The program, financed by Austria’s Federal Ministry for Education, Arts and Culture, awarded Gerardi a full grant to teach the language and serve as an authority on American culture to German-speaking students at a technical high school for the sciences and environment. The Austrian government annually places about 130 Americans in teaching assistantships in all nine provinces.
“I was very, very excited to receive (the offer),” said Gerardi, who hails from Endicott. “The process of accepting it was months of discussion with family and my loved ones. I spent many long walks talking with each of them, making sure they were all on board. Ultimately, they were very happy for me.”
John Lalande, chair of modern languages and literatures and an expert on German-speaking cultures, said he recommended Gerardi for the program based on the student’s strong grades, determination and many other attributes, including his command of the German language.
“He’s a guy you can sit down and chat with in German on any given subject,” Lalande said. “He’s a full partner in the conversation.”
The Salzburg opportunity won’t be Gerardi’s first extended stay in Austria. As an undergraduate in German and linguistics at Binghamton University, Gerardi spent 2007-08 at the University of Graz.
“In Graz, I had a lot of college friends,” said Gerardi, who plans to honeymoon in Austria after his marriage this summer to SUNY Oswego alumna Jennifer Picalila. “I now want to know and befriend people who supervise and work in exchange programs. Having the command of the language I do now, I can reflect on things I may have missed the first time around. I won’t just be happy with functioning — I want to be an active resident of the city and employee of the school.”
The Austrian program, administered by a Fulbright Commission affiliate, the Austrian-American Educational Commission, offers outstanding teaching assistants second-year grants, Gerardi said.
Gerardi currently is finishing a student-teaching placement at Cicero-North Syracuse High School. His modern-language methods teacher and mentor at SUNY Oswego is Joanne O’Toole, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction in the School of Education.
“I’m absolutely thrilled for him,” O’Toole said. “He’s most deserving. He’s a student who has sought out mentoring and sought out opportunities. Ben actively engages with his teachers and his peers and just pushes himself continually to a higher level. And this all just paid off.”