Remembering Maddalena Coletta


-Photo courtesy of Laurie Mitchell and Sam Cohen

With extreme sadness, Lynbrook High School’s students, faculty, and staff mourn the loss of Ms. Maddalena Antonietta Coletta. Ms. Coletta, who went by Signora Coletta to most of her students, passed away on Feb. 19.

Ms. Coletta touched the lives of thousands of students at Lynbrook High School, in addition to the numerous lives of students at Lynbrook South Middle School whom she taught. She knew the invaluable effects that sharing the Italian language and culture brought to the students, and she connected with each and every student as if he or she were the most important person in the world. From handing out magazine clippings showing authentic Italian cuisine to students who she knew loved Italian cooking to sharing an Italian show on HBO and discussing it with the student once she watched, Ms. Coletta formed such personal relationships with her students.

One of these students is senior Dylan Clarke, who affectionately said, “Ms. Coletta put up with so much of my hijinks that other teachers would’ve yelled about. Between botched Italian sentences after six years, or my own dialect of “The Sopranos” Italian like ‘gabagool,’ ‘pasta fajool,’ and ‘mootz,’ she was just so patient. I’ll always remember the day I tried to say I had a cold; instead of saying ‘un raffreddore,’ I said ‘un infradito,’ which means ‘a flip-flop.’ Instead of getting mad, she just laughed it off and corrected me after.”

Another student, senior Sal Cimato said, “Signora Coletta as a teacher will be missed in the LHS community. I will personally miss our endless hours of talking about all the Italian soccer news. Whether it was in English or Italian she always found a way to advance my understanding of the Italian culture. Even after I moved on from Italian classes, she still made an effort to talk to me and became someone who I could go talk to about anything.”

Senior Sam Cohen shares, “I will always remember on parent-teacher conference night last year, Ms. Coletta told my parents I was ‘slipping’ when I finished the quarter with a 99, as opposed to 100. My parents didn’t think much of it, but to me it was a reminder that I had a teacher who cared–cared that I was pushing myself and my own abilities despite achieving an objectively high mark in the course. Ms. Coletta knew me as a student, and she gave me the kick that I needed to get back on track. She taught me about so much beyond speaking Italian: we had nuanced political discussions about current events; we learned about food and culture; and she taught me the value of pursuing Italian for the sake of the love of the culture she instilled in me, not just the grades I got on the tests. She was a great role model, and I miss her every day.”

Senior Matt Venezia shares, “Ms. Coletta always put her students first and loved us so much. When I attended her wake, her sister old me that she went on and on about how much we meant to her. She truly was a special teacher and person, and I am very saddened by her loss.”

Ms. Coletta was always close with LHS faculty and staff. Other teachers in the LHS World Language Department and teachers and staff from every department knew of how incredible of a person Ms. Coletta was. Guidance counselor Ms. Angelillo shared, “I will never forget Maddalena and will always carry a piece of her with me. Her memory and life will always hold a special place in my heart. She was a beautiful person both inside and out and will be sorely missed.”

Ms. Coletta’s daughters have created a scholarship in honor of their mother that will be given to one senior whose life has been largely shaped by Italian culture. Senior Kyle Schneider shares, “I’m grateful for having had Ms. Coletta these past three years. She’s taught us so much about what it truly means to appreciate the Italian culture, and I’m glad I was able to learn from her.” The scholarship will doubtless serve to honor Coletta’s memory by continuing her mission of encouraging the love of Italian culture in students, even in her absence. In this way, and and through the many lives she has touched, Coletta’s legacy in Lynbrook will live on for years to come.