German Teacher Comes Full Circle
In June 2005, after his graduation from St. Peter’s Preparatory School (Prep) in Jersey City, N.J., Salvatore Veniero (B.A. 2009) lived with a family in the rural Eifel hills of western Germany. Earlier that spring, the Venieros had hosted a student from the same German family through Prep’s German exchange program.
“The experience changed my view of the world and my place in it. That was when I began to think of myself as a member of the global community,” says Veniero, who is still in touch with his host family.
Prep’s exchange program with Clara-Fey Gymnasium, a preparatory school in Schleiden, Germany, began in 1986, and has continued every other year since. In March, 22 students from the school and two of their teachers arrived in Jersey City for a three-week stay marking the 14th biennial exchange between the American and German schools. It also marked Veniero’s first year as director of the exchange program for Prep, where he now teaches Italian and German.
Veniero, who graduated from CUA with a dual degree in secondary education and German, has kept in touch with some of his professors, and that led him to an idea for enhancing the exchange-program experience for the high school students.
During the American leg of the exchange, Veniero brought the group of 22 German students and 28 American students to Washington, D.C., for an overnight trip in March. They saw the monuments, the Capitol, and Arlington Cemetery. They also spent an afternoon at Catholic University, meeting with the German Club and touring the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Planning for the visit started last November when Veniero got together with Claudia Bornholdt, associate professor and chair of CUA’s Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, while they were both attending the annual conference of the American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages in Philadelphia.
After planning with Bornholdt, Veniero contacted other CUA German professors: Amanda Sheffer, clinical assistant professor; Hanna Marks, associate professor of German; and Kerstin Gaddy, clinical assistant professor of German.
The four professors staffed tables to facilitate small-group discussions with the high school students during the visit. And students from the two schools and from CUA gave presentations about their schools and their different systems of education.
“The German students loved seeing the campus and talking to American college students in their native language. They were also intrigued to see that students live on campus at American universities,” says Veniero. “The Prep students got a kick out of seeing where I went to college and meeting my former professors.”
Bornholdt says the afternoon was a special moment for her. “I am very proud that Salvatore has found his passion in teaching German. And it’s been great fun to now relate to him as a fellow language teacher. Seeing our college students and the German and American high school students interacting and sharing in German — to me, this is what education is all about.”
While a student at CUA, Veniero says he was able to cultivate his passion for German language and culture and his passion for teaching through “individual attention that I received in both my education and language courses.”
In his junior year, he studied abroad in Berlin and, through a summer program, at the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt in Eichstätt, Bavaria, Germany. At CUA, he was active in Campus Ministry, D.C. Reads, and College Democrats.
As graduation neared, he began thinking about the possibility of returning to Prep as a teacher. But an opening for a language teacher there was filled before he graduated. That helped him make the decision to embark on his master’s degree in a European studies program at the European College of Parma in Italy. This time, when he completed his degree, timing was on his side.
“When I returned from Italy, there was an opening in the Department of Modern Languages. Returning to my alma mater has been a dream job. I loved my time there as a student and had so many teachers whom I admired. I can’t believe I am now in a position to similarly inspire these young men by sharing my love of foreign language and literature,” says Veniero, who also teaches Italian 101 and 102 at New Jersey City University.
“Learning a foreign language broadens your horizons in a literal way by opening up channels of communication, but it also opens minds and possibilities,” says Veniero.
Hobbies: “Between teaching at Prep and the College, I don’t have much time for hobbies, but I do like foreign films.”
Favorite spot on campus: The pergola flanking the ellipse of the law school.
Favorite place in Germany: Ku’damm Street in Berlin. “There are great restaurants and it’s very lively. It is a great place to study or to just observe.”
Favorite German author: Thomas Mann