Instagram, though typically a social media application dominated by students, has recently acquired a new user, Bonita Vista High School Italian teacher Robert Pirazzini with the handle “@bvh_italian.” As of March 2017, Pirazzini began posting pictures of his classroom, students and most recently his annual class trip to Italy in an attempt to recruit students for the class.
“This was a way for students who didn’t get a chance to go to Italy to see myself and to see their friends in Italy,” Pirazzini said. “[I want them to] see the pictures and go ‘Wow’ look at this, it looks awesome, I want to go to Italy.”
Pirazzini got the idea for the account from his students. He wanted to reach out to more students easily so they suggested getting a social media account for the class in order to promote it, especially to Bonita Vista Middle students.
“I went to my students and asked my different classes [what I should do to recruit]. They were saying that I should get an Instagram account. I knew I wouldn’t do something like Facebook since most students have Instagram,” Pirazzini said.
The exchange is the main event of the Italian department but there are smaller events throughout the school year that take place such as the Italian Festival and an opera that students sometimes attend. For Pirazzini, the trip is one of the most important moments of the year and he wants as many students as possible to attend.
“It’s not just about learning the language. When you go to Italy, you can get a sense of the culture. It gets you more connected to the language and it actually makes you feel like you’re apart of the culture,” junior and Italian 5-6 student Andrea Garcia said.
This year, Garcia participated in the study abroad trip for the first time. Pirazzini makes it known to all his students that understanding the Italian culture is just as important as learning the language. Because of this, he wanted to make Italian culture more accessible to his students through this Instagram account so that they can experience it without having to travel to Italy.
“I have a personal [Instagram] account that students aren’t allowed to follow but this was a way where I could do something that wasn’t personal but still Italian,” Pirazzini said.
Pirazzini originally meant for the Instagram to recruit students into the Italian departments, but it now serves the dual purpose of convincing students already enrolled in the class to go on the Italian trip.
“I was talking to some of my friends in the class and they want to go because they saw [what was being posted] on Instagram,” Garcia said.
This allowed students who did not go on the trip to still feel connected to the class even though they were halfway across the world. Pirazzini took it a step further utilizing the fairly new feature of live streaming.
“I went live twice while I was in Italy, the first time I was in front of the statue of David, and the second time we were on the gondola in Venice,” Pirazzini said.
The live videos give a sense of what it is like to be there on the trip in real time. Many students who hosted Italians here were not able to go on the trip. The live videos allowed these students to catch up with their partners and see what is in store for them next year.
“It would have been a really cool experience to go, I miss my partner and it would have been cool to meet up with her again. I wish I could have gone. I saw both of the live videos, and seeing all my friends there made me want to go and share in that experience,” junior and Italian 5-6 student Jessica Gonzalez said.
Although Gonzales was not able to go on the trip, she was still able to experience parts of the trip through the videos. Like the idea for the Instagram account, the live stream idea also came from Pirazzini’s students.
“One of the students told me I should live stream. I had never heard of it because I don’t do this kind of stuff. They told me about it and I thought it was a great idea so we did it while we were in Florence,” Pirazzini said.
After returning from the Italy trip, Pirazzini has already seen more interest in the trip than usual. With more students projected to go on the trip than ever before, Pirazzini is looking forward to next year’s trip.
“There certainly is a lot of buzz about going to Italy next year. Right now I have a large group of students that want to go to Italy. [This is] probably the largest I’ve ever had who want to go,” Pirazzini said.