Photo of child drawing a picture

The Reggio Emilia Approach: A Panel on the U.S. School System’s Responses to an Italian Educational Philosophy

Tuesday, March 15, 2016 – 6.30-8.30 p.m.
Lecture Hall, Room 101 in the Feliciano School of Business
For directions, select School of Business from campus map

See media coverage for this event
See flyer

‌‌Image of children learning

This program grants Professional Development credit hours
For more info click here

Join Lella Gandini, Reggio Children Liaison for the Dissemination of the  Reggio Emilia Approach in the U.S., and educators Kathleen Berkowitz, Debbie Piescor and Gina Miele for an evening exploring the U.S. responses to the Italian Reggio Emilia educational philosophy.

The Reggio Emilia Approach is an educational philosophy focused on infant-toddler, preschoolers and primary school children. It was developed in Italy by the visionary teacher Loris Malaguzzi (1920-94) and parents in the villages around Reggio Emilia after World War II.

The program is based on supporting the potentials of children, as well as the principles of respect, responsibility, and community. Learning takes place through exploration and discovery in a supportive and enriching environment based on the interests of the children as observed, documented and sustained by the teachers. The assumption that animates the approach is that the children themselves are knowledge-makers; that their learning is an autonomous process that occurs inside the social environment created together by educators, children, and their families; and that this learning takes place through dialogue and exchange made visible by documentation of practices.

The Reggio Emilia Approach views creativity as a way to produce and convey knowledge, as well as a tool with which children can express and build their personal and shared learning through their “hundred languages,” which Malaguzzi defined as children’s plurality of views and infinite potential for searching and being surprised.

This panel will explore the Reggio Emilia Approach, its history and growth in Italy, as well as its use in the U.S. school system, through presentations that embrace the perspectives of scholars, teachers, school directors, and parents.

The panel will ask:

  • What is the role of the Italian cultural legacy in the Reggio approach today? How has the approach evolved from its local beginnings in a relatively small Italian town to its international diffusion today?
  • How can the Reggio approach be useful in the specific context of U.S. families’ lives, where full-time working parents may not have the time to be as involved as this approach expects?
  • How can the Reggio approach respond to the needs of special education children in the U.S. system?


  • Introductory remarks: Dr. Teresa Fiore (Inserra Chair, Montclair State University)
  • Guest speaker’s talk: “The Reggio Emilia Approach: Italian Beginnings, International Growth” by Lella Gandini (Reggio Children Liaison for the Dissemination of the Reggio Emilia Approach in the U.S.)
  • Respondents’ contribution: “Three Perspectives on Integrating the Fundamentals of Reggio Emilia in an American School”, a joint presentation by:
    Kathleen Berkowitz (School Director, A Child’s Place School, Lincroft, NJ)
    Debbie Piescor (Master Teacher, A Child’s Place School, Lincroft, NJ)
    Dr. Gina Miele (Professor of Italian, Montclair State University, and informed parent at A Child’s Place School, Lincroft, NJ)


Lella Gandini is known in the United States as the leading advocate for the Reggio Emilia approach to early-childhood education, which emerged after the Second World War in Northern Italy—in the town that gives this approach its name. Gandini’s many publications in English and Italian include volumes on early-childhood education and Italian folklore, and she is coauthor or coeditor of such works as Insights and Inspirations from Reggio Emilia: Stories of Teachers and Children from North AmericaThe Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Approach to Early Childhood Education; and Beautiful Stuff!: Learning with Found Materials. She holds a doctorate in education and has taught at the University of Massachusetts and Lesley College where she is currently a distinguished Visiting Scholar. She is the recipient of an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters in 2014 from the Erikson Institute, in Chicago; a Lifetime Achievement Award, from NAREA in 2004 and a Smith College Medal in Northampton, MA in 2008. See interview.

Kathleen (Kathy) Berkowitz is the Director of A Child’s Place School. She received her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education and master’s degree as a reading specialist from the College of New Jersey (formerly Trenton State College). She taught in the East Windsor Regional School District for nine years at the 3-5 and 6-8 level and is a 6-8 language arts content specialist. For 12 years she held administrative positions and taught parent/child, nursery and kindergarten classes at the Waldorf School of Princeton. Kathy was Director of the Kean University Child Care and Development Center, a Reggio Emilia-inspired school, for seven years before joining A Child’s Place. Kathy is a member of NAREA (North America Reggio Emilia Alliance), NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children), and NJEEPRE (New Jersey Educators Exploring the Practices of Reggio Emilia) where she held the position of Roundtable Chair for many years. Presently, she is the NJEEPRE Chair. In 2009, Kathy participated in the North American Study Tour to Reggio Emilia, Italy, and continues to support and implement those same theories, values and practices at A Child’s Place School. In 2013 she was awarded the New Jersey Child Care Association Director of the Year Award. Kathy has presented at several NAEYC conferences, and at the 32nd Annual Conference of the ACT (Association for Constructivist Teaching) held in October 2015 at Kean University.

Debbie Piescor is a master teacher in a kindergarten/first grade combined classroom at a private NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) accredited, Reggio Emilia inspired school enrolling children from ages 3 to 7, in nursery through first grade. As a curriculum specialist, she helps guide the learning experiences of all three programs (Nursery, All Day Room, and Primary Class) in the school. Debbie earned a Bachelor’s degree in both early elementary education as well as psychology from Caldwell College in New Jersey and is a member of Kappa Delta Epsilon, an honors fraternity for professional educators. She has presented in many annual conferences for NAEYC on a variety of topics, all of which were influenced by the values, theories, and practices that represent the fundamentals in the schools of Reggio Emilia. Debbie recently presented a three-hour workshop on authentic assessment and documentation in Orlando. She also presented several times at the state conferences in Atlantic City and is a member of NAEYC and NAREA (North America Reggio Emilia Alliance). She presented Constructivist Learning through Engagement with Clay at the ACT (Association for Constructivist Teaching) 2014 Annual Conference in Charleston, South Carolina and Documentation in the 2015 conference at Kean University.

Gina Miele is an assistant professor of Italian and former director of the Coccia Institute for the Italian Experience in America, both at Montclair State University. She received her Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literatures from Harvard University. While she specializes in nineteenth and twentieth century Italian folktales, particularly those of Luigi Capuana and Italo Calvino, she teaches courses on various periods, authors and genres of the Italian literary tradition. She has published in Italica; Marvels and Tales; Fabula; Italian Quarterly; Marvelous Transformations: An Anthology of Tales and Contemporary Critical Perspectives; the Greenwood Encyclopedia of Folktales and Fairy Tales; the Harvard College Journal of Italian American History and Culture; the Italian American Review; Altreitalie; the Paterson Literary Review and Primo Magazine. With Elvira DiFabio, she co-authored the workbook accompanying the Italian textbook, Parliamo italiano! In 2014 and 2015, she presented at the NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) annual conference on the principles of Reggio Emilia and project/play based learning. She is currently at work on an annotated translation of Luigi Capuana’s fairy tales.


Reggio Children: Official website
North American Reggio Emilia Alliance (NAREA): Official website
New Jersey Educators Exploring the Practices of Reggio Emilia (NJEEPRE): Official website
A Child’s Place School: Official website

Further Resources

Interview with Lella Gandini, leading advocate for the Reggio Emilia approach
Article about the Reggio Emilia Approach in The Atlantic
Short description on
Values and Principles of the Reggio Emilia Approach by Lella Gandini
Reggio Children – International Center for the Defense and Promotion of the Rights and Potentials of All Children
CNN News Report on Reggio Emilia Italy Early Childhood Schools in the US: video
Interviews with former Reggio Emilia school students Glenda Garelli and Monica Morini

For information about the Professional Development credit hours, visit or ask at the registration table at the event.